Monday, March 8, is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women, and also to remember the suffering experienced by so many women and girls around the world.
Last week, I sat in the Upaya Zen Center zendo with about 50 other people as we listened, captivated, to Eve Ensler, creator of the Vagina Monologues and V-Day. You may not know this – Eve is a practicing Buddhist. She didn’t talk a lot about Buddhism explicitly, but everything she spoke about emanated dharma – realness, authenticity, deep compassion, healing and transformation, and activated practice.
By the end of the evening, I knew a lot more about the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has been the site of a horrific war for the past 12 years. During this time, nearly 5.4 million people have died and hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped and sexually tortured. It is one of the most dangerous places in the world for women.
Through the work of Eve and her colleague, Dr. Denis Mukwege, the suffering of these women is coming more into global awareness, and programs are being developed to support their leadership and to, as Eve says, “turn pain into power.” But in so many other places around the planet, women continue to be the targets of oppression and brutality.
So here are a few things you can do to mark International Women’s Day:
- Sign up for the Fifth Annual Buddhist Women’s Conference in Chicago on May 1. (This is now added to the calendar of Socially Engaged Buddhist events, elsewhere on this blog.)
- Nominate someone for the Women and Engaged Buddhism Award, to be presented at the May 1 conference. This award recognizes and encourages initiatives in Engaged Buddhism by women and is intended to nurture new or little-known projects that are underway at the time of the application. Application deadline is March 26.
- Support Eve’s project, The City of Joy, which will be located in Bukavu, DRC, and will support and train women to be community activists. They will have access to services including education and income generating activities, as well as leadership training. They will also receive programming in: group therapy; storytelling; dance; theater; self-defense; comprehensive sexuality education (covering HIV/AIDS, family planning); ecology and horticulture; and economic empowerment.
- Attend a showing of “Half the Sky,” a one-night event on March 4 inspired by stories from the New York Times bestseller “Half the Sky” by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn about women and girls everywhere turning oppression into opportunity.
What are your thoughts on International Women’s Day?