One of the most beautiful potentials contained within humanity is the coming together as a group to make an impact for good in this world. Sure, we can do good on our own as individuals and disciples, but the force for change that comes from a united effort of like-minded souls is undeniably powerful. In the LDS church, this is frequently exemplified in congregations that look beyond difference to support those around them in need. We are adept at mobilizing in the face of disaster, and true needs do not go unnoticed when it counts. The Relief Society plays a significant role in this positive feature of the Church and its members, as women band together when you least expect it. Even amidst petty squabbles and the hang-ups of judgment, there is a foundational sisterhood that exists wherever the Church is found. It may not always be put to use, and it may not even be clearly seen, but it is a resource that I believe can be tapped for good when the need is there.
But what about a Sisterhood that goes beyond ward and stake boundaries? What about the women around us, near and far, that don’t share our beliefs, and yet share a heritage and connection with us as women that surpasses all cultures, races, religions and lines on a map? When those women have needs that are so vastly beyond our own, do we have an obligation to help them? Are they not our sisters? Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, and the equality for which it was initially formed to bring about is still drastically out of reach for too many of our sisters around the world.
Women and girls in too many countries today are still routinely trafficked, raped and enslaved. They still wither in poverty and die in childbirth because they are forced to marry and conceive too young or do not receive competent care when it is needed. They suffer from obstetric fistulas and are cast out of their homes and communities. Girls do not get enough food or medicine, while their brothers flourish. Education is rarely even an option for them, and when it is, they are very often not safe in traveling to school. Girls in many countries do not stay in school past the onset of menses for a variety of reasons. In too many places in this world, women do not have a say in what happens to them. They are not compensated for labor. They cannot vote or travel without men. Whether by violence or political and cultural oppression, they are silenced.
We can all read stories of women and girls in these situations and say that it is wrong. It is wrong that these things happen. It is wrong that the world is like this. It is wrong that there is such a gap between our experience and theirs. But what if we also read of stories where girls from rural villages are given the opportunity for education and return to their communities to educate others? Or what if we read about women that are able to implement and sustain businesses that elevate not only the lives of their families, but also the economies of their communities? Would we also feel hope? Would we sense that maybe the answer to the wrong in this world is to give women more rights?
Last September, a book review of Half the Sky was posted here from the Exponent II publication. Sariah did a wonderful job expounding on the importance of the book and what it can mean for us as American Feminists. It inspired me to order a copy, and as we traveled for Thanksgiving, I devoured it. During that time, WAVE did a call to action to read it as well, and as I let the impact of the material sit with me a while, I started to get an idea. I shared it on WAVE, and was encouraged to follow up with it by Jenne of the Women’s Service Mission.
Months later I and others have put this idea into action. With invaluable help from friends and my talented sister, we are launching a nonprofit organization that collects donations from women just about anywhere that are able to produce and create unique items for sale. We are selling those items through a collective shop (and providing free advertising in a mutually beneficial relationship for those with home based businesses) and turning the funds into opportunities for women. For some of our early donations, we are dedicating funds to efforts such as building a latrine for girls in Africa so that they can stay close to school when they are menstruating. We are already sponsoring a woman through Women for Women International, and next month we will be sponsoring a girl through Plan International. In addition to paying for things like fistula surgeries, school uniforms and years worth of education, we will also be making small donations of stoves, chickens, homebirth kits and more as we gain momentum.
And when I say “we”, I mean any and all of us that want to be a part of what we’re doing. Our idea doesn’t work without the support and talents of women and sisters. We all know women that use their creative brands of talents to make beautiful art, or useful crafts, or delicious preserves. We all probably know someone that makes adorable toys and children’s clothing, or fashionable and unique accessories. Maybe we have ward sisters that quilt together, or local craft groups. The point is, we all have talents. They come in many forms, some tangible and some not, but we can use those talents for a greater good if we work together.
In All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich writes,
“I have come to believe that talent is an inner drive that propels a person to take time. People who are experts at something work harder at it than the rest of us because they see (and hear and taste and feel) possibilities the rest of us can’t discern – the stairway in the side of a rock, the hat or vest in a yard of cloth, the unfulfilled potential of an organization. People with talent help us see what is hidden.”
Will you share your talents with us? Will you help us to magnify the call of the Relief Society on a global scale? If you’re interested in joining our efforts to empower, support, educate and heal women worldwide, please visit http://www.talentsofsisters.org for updates on what we’re doing with the funds we raise. There is also information on how to donate or be a part of the effort in other ways, and for a list of wonderful contributions to buy if you don’t craft, click here. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
Help us to see what is hiding in the women that hold up half the sky.