Since I have been discussing women in politics a good bit, I thought I would share this opinion piece from July 28, 2008. The author will be revealed at the bottom of the page:
Rwanda's Women Are Leading the Way
I have recently returned from Rwanda. I was last there in 1994, at the height of the genocide that claimed the lives of more than 800,000 Rwandans. The memories of what I saw haunt me still.
I wasn't sure what to expect all these years later, but I found a country that has found in its deep scars the will to move on and rebuild a civil society. And the renaissance is being led by women.
Women are at the forefront of the physical, emotional and spiritual healing that is moving Rwandan society forward. One of them, from eastern Rwanda, told me her story -- a violent, tragic and heartbreaking testimony of courage. She spoke of surviving multiple gang rapes, running at night in fear of losing her life, going days without food or water and witnessing the death of her entire family -- one person at a time, before her eyes.
The injuries she sustained left her unable to bear children. Illness, isolation and an utter lack of hope left her in abject despair.
And yet the day I met her, she wasn't consumed by hatred or resentment. She sat, talking with me and a few others, beside a man who had killed people guilty of nothing more than seeking shelter in a church. She forgave him. She forgave the perpetrators of her tragedy, and she explained her story with hope that such cruelty would never be repeated.
It is a humbling experience to be in the presence of those who have such a capacity for forgiveness and care. It is also instructive. If wealthy nations want their assistance programs to be effective, they should look to the women who form the backbone of every society. With some education, training, basic rights and empowerment, women will transform a society -- and the world.
Women today make up a disproportionate percentage of the Rwandan population. In the aftermath of the genocide, they had to head households bereft of fathers. They had to take over farms, and take jobs previously done by men. But there were opportunities, too: Today, 41% of Rwandan businesses are owned by women.
I saw their impact first hand at a coffee project in the city of Nyandungu. All the washing and coffee-bean selection is done by hand, by women there. Women for Women International1, a remarkably active and innovative nongovernmental organization, has already helped over 15,000 Rwandan women through a year-long program of direct aid, job-skills training and education.
The organization is launching a project to train 3,000 women in organic agriculture, and is reaching out to females across the country. The women who instruct their fellow war survivors in economic development are an inspiration to those who cherish the essential benevolence of humanity.
But that is just the beginning. A new constitution ratified in 2003 required that women occupy at least 30% of the seats in parliament. (In our House and Senate only about 17% of the seats are filled by women.) Some wondered at the time whether it was feasible to meet this target. Now, nearly half of parliament and a third of the president's cabinet posts are held by women. Rwanda today has the world's highest percentage of female legislators.
Rwanda has a dark past but a bright future. It has a long way to go -- the country remains one of the world's poorest, and the social reverberations of the genocide are evident everywhere. Yet in the midst of tragedy, the women are building something genuinely new. Perhaps it is fitting that a nation so wracked by death could give birth to a vibrant new age. I know that one thing is clear: Through their bold and courageous actions, these women should inspire not only their fellow Africans, but all individuals -- men and women -- across the globe.
Mrs. McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain and mother of four, founded the American Voluntary Medical Team, which helps bring doctors to war-torn countries.
Now that's some solidarity. Something in which we have been sorely lacking in this campaign season, if you ask me. Moreover, Mrs. McCain makes a GREAT point in her piece - the importance of supporting women because they are typically the backbone of the community.
I admit, I had no idea Mrs. McCain was involved in so many humanitarian efforts (and I found out yesterday on the Rachel Ray Show that Mrs. McCain was a Special Ed teacher before she got married to John McCain - who knew??). Not only does she work with this group, but she works with the Smile Train (their adopted daughter had a cleft palate) and The Halo Trust, an anti-landmine organization. And I have to admit, learning this about her made me see Senator McCain in a new light. Not unlike Elizabeth Edwards did for John Edwards (let's face it - she was the more compelling person, and is totally awesome in her politics. Without her John was just okay. Which makes his cheating on her all the more offensive, the putz.). I figure if he is married to someone like Cindy, he's a pretty decent fellow (I have said before that I have always thought of him as honorable, and this confirmed it). Cindy McCain seems to have internalized the bibilical mandate which basically says, to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).
You know who else is like this? Hillary and Bill Clinton. Yep - they care a lot about others, and spend millions helping them out. Bill Clinton's Foundation is an amazing organization, with extremely low Administrative costs - most of the money goes to doing the actual work. And we all remember Hillary's brilliant speech on Women's Rights as Human Rights, along with her efforts on behalf of women and other disenfranchised people before and after, that speech. Frankly, this country is lucky as hell to have these two dedicated public servants, a fact at least John McCain acknowledges, certainly in terms of Hillary Clinton and her work in the US Senate. Know who else thinks so? Senator Joe Biden! Yes, I am sure we have all seen the YouTube video of him claiming Senator Clinton is certainly qualified enough to be President, and as qualified as he, if not more, to be vice president (if you did not see it, here is the LINK).
All that is to say, the hearts of the ones in the White House matter. How they see others, and treat them, matters. I think there is a world of difference between how the McCains and the Obamas see other people. I cannot imagine for the life of me, Senator McCain flipping off Senator Clinton or Obama. I cannot imagine Cindy McCain saying she is just now proud of her country. What I have seen in both McCains is humility, and the desire to serve. What I have seen in the Obamas is arrogance, and the desire for power (I might add, this perception is borne out in fact by the Citizens Against Government Waste who said McCain voted 100% FOR the taxpayers in 2007, and Obama voted only 10% of the time for the taxpayers. WOW.). I'll take a servant's heart any day (I don't mean this with a specifically Christian connotation, but in terms of being a true public servant, one who cares about the people whom one serves, who takes THEIR concerns to heart and works to ease their trials and tribulations, who wants to make their lives better, to raise up the disenfranchised, who works for equality for all people, who fights the good fight because it is the right thing to do, not because of the accolades it will bestow. Like that.). Hillary has it, Bill has it, and so it seems, do John, Cindy, and Sarah Palin, too. I don't agree with a lot of their politics, but I cannot deny their dedication, commitment, and humility. I think I can live with that for four years. I cannot live with arrogance, condescension, and bullying for four years. Just sayin'.