Celebrating the women who are building a better world

Today marks International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate and give thanks for the incredible women in our families, our communities and around the world. But it’s not just a day of thanks; today can also be a day of change.

Here at home, and in so many communities where AJWS works, women live in societies that limit their education, their choices and their very human rights. That’s why we’re celebrating International Women’s Day by spotlighting feminist, women-led AJWS grantee organizations and the activists, changemakers and leaders who refuse to accept the broken world they inherited — women who won’t stop until every single person can live with full rights, safety and dignity.

Lydia Odipo is a domestic abuse survivor who’s become a beacon of hope for women in her community. Lydia is a member of Positive Young Women’s Voices (PYWV), an AJWS grantee that was first created by women in Nairobi, Kenya, as a support group for women coping with violence and poverty. But it quickly grew into so much more. Today, PYWV is building a growing community of women who are standing up against society’s limitations on what they can become. Lydia now supports other survivors who are overcoming trauma and rebuilding their lives.

Lydia looking at the camera with a book in her hands, wearing a red hat. Photo by Lameck Ododo
Photo by Lameck Ododo

“Women have always been put in a box. The world has defined us as homemakers. But an empowered woman knows that we are much more than that. We are survivors. We can survive anything.”

Anam’s life was changed when she participated in a gender and technology course with AJWS grantee Sadbhavana Trust. The organization has been providing these courses in India for a decade — expanding the aspirations of marginalized women and girls who live in communities where women are expected to stay home, do housework and not pursue their own dreams. The course changed the way Anam thinks about gender and prepared her to become a leader. Since then, she has ascended to the top of her company in the male-dominated real estate field.

Anam on a motorbike looking at the camera. Photo courtesy of Sadbhavana Trust
Photo courtesy of Sadbhavana Trust

“Each time I have felt things need to be said, I have said them. This, for me, is a huge change. I have grown up believing that men are supposed to be ahead of women in all spheres.”

A new generation of women in Senegal is demanding that their voices be heard — at the ballot box and in the halls of power. One of these women is Ndeye Khady Diagne, a volunteer “community godmother” who helps community members seek justice after violence, learn about family planning and solve disputes. Eager to learn more about leadership and shape the future of her country, Ndeye joined a political education training 150-women strong, run by AJWS grantee Association des Juristes Sénégalaises.

Ndeye is looking at the camera wearing white and yellow clothing. Photo by Maroussia Mbaye
Photo by Maroussia Mbaye

“Men will never, never, never just hand over their power. It will not be given. It must be taken. There will be obstacles, we know this. But we will be the ones to let other women know: You have the ability. You have the strength. Now come and take your power.”

As a teenager, Rati “Note” Taesombat was pressured by both her family and medical professionals to hide her identity as a trans woman to fit into Thai society — but she refused to live anything less than her truth. In 2010, she co-founded Thai Transgender Alliance, which today is one of the country’s leading LGBTQI+ organizations, fighting to create a safe and equitable Thailand where trans people are free from discrimination, harassment and ridicule. In the meantime, Note and her team have formed a warm and understanding second family for young trans people across Thailand.

Note wears a black shirt, smiles and walks behind a trans flag.
Note, wearing the black shirt, at a Pride march. Photo by Allison Joyce

We’re helping people fight for their lives, for equality. We don’t talk about winning or losing. We talk about changing society.”

Alejandra Burgos is a leader at AJWS grantee Red Salvadoreña de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos, an organization of courageous activists fighting to decriminalize abortion in El Salvador. El Salvador has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world, with the procedure banned without exceptions. Women who obtain abortion care or even experience miscarriage have been sentenced to up to 40 years in jail. Still, despite the great personal risk of fighting back, Alejandra is persevering and finding hope in her fellow activists who are fighting by her side.

A group of Salvadoran activists wearing green bandanas and rainbow flags at an abortion rights march. Photo courtesy of Red Salvadoreña de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos
Salvadoran activists at an abortion rights march. Photo courtesy of Red Salvadoreña de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos

“The young feminist and trans-feminist movements are great sources of inspiration and hope. This movement goes beyond our own lives. We are not the first ones in this struggle, and we will not be the last ones.”

AJWS celebrates International Women’s Day today in honor of these extraordinary women and millions more like them around the world. Hand in hand with them, we keep pressing on for justice — today and every day.