July 1 2008
This 4th of July, as women of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds in America enjoy a three-day weekend in celebration of Independence Day, one can only hope that they also reflect on the many liberties and rights that they ordinarily take for granted.
Almost 90 years ago, women in the U.S. were granted the right to vote and had limited access to education and employment. Today, Women in the U.S. are reaching the height of political power, are working in high-level positions, and are fulfilling roles once seen as appropriate for only men.
American women are among the lucky few. Across the globe, many women wish they had access to the rights and protections that women in the United States view as ordinary.
In Iran, women's rights activists were arrested on June 12th before the commencement of a peaceful assembly to mark the third anniversary of the National Day of Solidarity of Iranian Women. Iranian women live in constant fear of reprisal from their government for merely voicing concern about injustices the regime is imposing on them.
Can a woman in the U.S. grasp being tortured, raped, and beaten because her husband, son, or a male relative was a suspected supporter of a political party? Sadly, this is the case for millions of women in conflict and war stricken nations throughout the world. In Burma, women are raped by the military as a weapon to subjugate ethnic minorities.
Many American women recognize that they are uniquely blessed to live in this country and are working to help advance women's rights around the world. After the tragic events of September 11th, for example, several American women who had lost loved ones in the attacks took the initiative to help Afghan women. Some even moved to Afghanistan because they knew they still had a lot to be grateful for and even though they were dealing with unimaginable grief, knew Afghan women had endured this same sorrow for decades. For example, Deborah Rodriguez, a hair stylist from Michigan went to Afghanistan to give something to Afghan women, a beauty parlor-which may seem insignificant for women in the States, but was a place of comfort and self recognition for women in Afghanistan.
This weekend, undoubtedly many American women will be busy planning barbeques and picnics for their families. This is as it should be - a time to celebrate the joys that freedom brings. I hope they take a moment to be thankful they live in a nation where it can be done and think about their sisters around the globe who wish for the same for their own families. July 4th is a time for celebration and a time to recommit ourselves to the idea that liberty is truly for all.