Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World

As part of CARE's campaign to empower women, photographer Phil Borges created a compelling collection of photographs and stories of women leaders who brought change to their communities in Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World.

I was particularly moved by the story of Abay from Awash Fontale, Ethiopia who ended female circumcision in her village. Here is her story from Phil Borges' web site:

"Abay was born into a culture in which girls are circumcised before age 12.When it came time for her circumcision ceremony, Abay said, 'No.' Her mother insisted: An uncircumcised woman would be ostracized and could never marry, Abay was told. When her mother’s demands became unbearable, she ran away to live with a sympathetic godfather. Eight years later, Abay returned to her village and began work as a station agent for CARE, supervising the opening of a primary school and a health clinic and the construction of a well. After five years, she finally convinced one of the women to let her film a circumcision ceremony. She showed the film to the male leaders. They had never seen a female circumcision and were horrified. Two weeks later, the male leaders called a special meeting and voted fifteen to two to end female circumcision in their village."
Abay's story, which you can read with her photograph on philborges.com, encapsulates why we should never give up hope that we can create positive change. The circumcision ritual was probably a part of Abay's culture for a very long time and seemed impossible to change. Through action (saying no, filming the ceremony, showing the film to the male leaders), and education (the male leaders had never seen the ceremony) Abay was able to change her community's beliefs.

Is there an issue in your community that you can change through education and action?

Book cover image from philborges.com.

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