The world has reached a tipping point in the struggle for women’s equality and empowerment. That was among the messages delivered at the official commemoration of International Women’s Day at the United Nations in New York that sought to bring the power of Hollywood to the plight of rural women around the world.
Under the theme “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives”, speakers included some of the biggest names from tinsel town who are lending their star power to cause for women’s equality and empowerment.
United in the cause for women’s emancipation.
As the halls of the General Assembly echoed a rallying cry that seeks to bring farmworkers and other rural women out of the shadows and into the public consciousness. Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says:
“What we are about today is bringing everybody in one room, take Hollywood to the farmland and farmland to Hollywood because this struggle is universal. Women and girls in rural areas, indigenous women, human rights defenders who have fought and even lost their lives protecting their land, need to be supported but their struggled need to be celebrated and made visible. Rural women must not be invisible.”
Activist Monica Ramirez runs an NGO Alianza Nacional De Campesinas that seeks to secure economic and social justice for farmworker women and their families.
“More than 400-million women work in agriculture worldwide, they plant, pick and pack the food that we eat. Their work is vital, it gives us life and while their work is so vital to our lives, their lives are under constant threat. Farmworker women are invisible to most people and it’s this invisibility that makes them vulnerable to exploitation, discrimination and the violence that is perpetrated against them.”
Ramirez also called for UNWOMEN to be fully funded.
“The time is now to ensure that this entity receives the proper resources that it needs are required to meet the needs of women and girls across the globe. It is unconscionable that in many countries, women still do not have equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunities for education, equal access to capital and equal representation in political power at all levels. While it is true that there is no justification for these facts, the other truth is, we are not waiting to be saved. We are saving ourselves, despite all odds.”
As UNWOMEN seeks to leverage the attention that movements like MeTOO and TimesUp have generated through the confessionals of some of Hollywood’s most powerful female voices. Among them Oscar winning actress Reece Witherspoon.
“We’re talking about globally, how can we affect change by creating safer work environments and having the companies we work for and the governments that represent us understand that we are not going away and we’re not going to be quiet, we want to see ourselves represented 50-50 as soon as possible, as soon as we can make that possible because women are 50 percent of the population, we deserve 50% of the representation.”
Zimbabwean American actress and Black Panther star Danai Gurira was asked about the role Hollywood can play in rural communities, prompting this reflection on a time spent researching a play with women victims of Liberia’s civil war.
“They all wanted to be heard and secondly, they almost all of them entirely said to me, no-one had ever asked. No-one had ever asked them what had happened to them, no-one had ever asked what they’d gone through and what they wanted next and that really got me and at the time I was an extremely broke playwright who was there because I had done a rent party and a friend said he’d match whatever I’d made and that helped me pay my New York rent and get on that plane. But now I’m in a different position so… so I have to go back and I have to meet those girls again face to face.”
The event served as a preface to the start of the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women next week where the spotlight will also be on the empowerment of rural women in particular.