“My sisters, my daughters, my friends, find your voices!” President of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
In 2012, with resolutions to loosen our pants and fatten our wallets, I wonder if we could add a new resolution to the list; let’s resolve to find our voices.
The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three women who fought injustice, dictatorship, and sexual violence in their home countries of Liberia and Yemen: 1) President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 2) Leymah Roberta Gbowee, founder of Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace Campaign, and 3) Tawakkol Karman, Yemini revolutionist.
This was the first time the award has been received by three women(YES!). However, this is not all these women have in common. They are all “regular” women whom decided to speak up and unrelentingly fight for peace. Even imprisoned and threatened with death, they haven’t stopped fighting for what they believe in.
“If women were part of decision-making in most societies, there would be less exclusive policies and laws that are blind to abuses women endure,” said Gbowee during her Nobel lecture.
The voices of women aren’t just underrepresented in countries facing tyrannical dictators, but in democracies – even on the Internet. A 2010 study stated that less than 13% of editors on Wikipedia were women. Male knowledge dominates the greatest collection of information on the web. Ladies, it’s time for a change.
3 ways to find your voice.
1. Your voice matters – Had Gbowee not found her voice and stood up in church one day to speak out against the violence of the Liberian civil war, if she had not urged women to join her in peaceful protests, protests which led to peace talks and, eventually, a resolution, then who knows what Liberia’s current state would be. One woman. One voice. The end of a war. You don’t have to end a war or win a Nobel Prize. Know that when you speak up, in the bedroom or boardroom, it matters – your voice matters.
2. Start small – Every woman doesn’t need to quit her job, buy a cape, and become wonder woman. Find your voice in small ways: Comment on something you wouldn’t usually on Facebook, or yes, even make an edit on Wikipedia.
3. Find your passion – These women had no other incentive besides a passion for peace. What is your passion, what is something you are willing to speak up about? How to find your passion? Look for the one thing you can barely keep your mouth shut about. Having a passion about something makes you want to voice your opinion, to talk about it, to fight for it.
I heard somewhere that we should try to do one thing a day that scares us; maybe for some of us this is speaking our minds when we otherwise wouldn’t. When we come to a crossroads between silence and speech, whether it’s at work, at home, or even online, let’s make the pledge to voice our opinions. Let’s not be JUST 13% anymore!
You never know whom you’ll inspire, what you’ll accomplish, and what you’ll find out about yourself.
Hello readers! My name is Melanie Kozak. I am currently a spring intern at HerExchange, and a women’s studies and journalism double major at The University of Maryland. I am from Jefferson, a lovely small town in Maryland that finds itself on the Potomac River nestled on the boarders of West Virginia and Virginia. I am a self-proclaimed feminist and am passionate about global human rights issues, and of course my Border collie, Sam. I’d love to receive feedback from my readers! Mel1829@terpmail.umd.edu.