CHICAGO, USA: BlogHer International Activist Panel 2013
Upstairs in a quiet little room, tucked away far from the madding crowd – were four of the most inspirational women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They came from far and wide, each with a story to tell, of lives we can hardly imagine. Yet here they were – ready to share and let us peek in their windows and see their souls.
Not too many of the thousands of women attending BlogHer 2013 even knew that these women were here, how far they had come, how they had poured their hearts into the words that had earned them scholarships to be in the United States.
So very far from where they called home.
So very far from the lives we often take for granted.
Every year for around 5 years now, BlogHer has opened a competition across the globe to invite female activists to write in and tell BlogHer why they should come and tell their story. An all expenses paid trip from wherever they may be to share with us sometimes the unspeakable, sometimes the heart wrenching and always the uplifting on how just one person can make a difference.
This year there were four scholarship recipients:
- Zeng Jinyan from Mainland China – both her and her husband, an AIDS activist, have been on house arrest, and she was listed as one of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 People Influencing the World in 2007.
- Ayesha Sultana, an activist since she was 19, her family from Pakistan and now residing in Canada spoke of the time her father attacked her with a knife at the dinner table as her mother did nothing.
- Jennifer Tosch, an American living in Amsterdam and the founder of black heritage tours, after she followed her mother’s mysterious past to Europe.
- Purnima Ramakrishnan from India is the writer of The Alchemist; Senior Editor of World Moms Blog; activist for vaccines, maternal health and the girls of India; and also my friend …
I was so very taken with their words, that it did not occur to me between wiping my tears to take even one photo. I have only this one of my dear friend and also the founder of World Moms Blog, Jennifer Burden and the lovely Purnima Ramakrishnan, side by side … but I could not love this shot more!
This is Purnima’s very first trip to the United States, flying alone and such a teeny soul she was taken for an unaccompanied minor. I hope that you visit Purnima’s corner of the blogosphere The Alchemists Blog – she has so much to share with the incredible work she does for The Gates Foundation, GAVI Alliance, and The Huffington Post to mention a few!
There were many tears shed during this session.
These are voices that cry out to be heard.
Their stories are of hardships, struggles, and loss.
But their eyes shine as they tell of what they hope for the future and about realizing their dreams.
Since 2009, these ladies who have received the BlogHer International Activist Scholarships have walked the halls of BlogHer with incredible stories to tell, of the lives they have led, of countries far away where politics reign supreme, democracy may never reach and injustices prevail daily. They make a difference in a world, leaving footprints of change where most of us have barely left an imprint. They need us to share, to speak, to join forces and say that no matter where in the world our fellow sisters are, we are indeed all sisters – a mantra so very dear to my heart, here, at World Moms Blog and in the community I am building at Sisters from Another Mister.
As a single Mom raising two girls in Boca Raton FL, my hardships are few. Sure my emotions are drained daily, but I never doubt that I can conquer my fears and rise to where I need to be. These women have shown extraordinary courage, they break barriers for women everywhere and their stories are to be brought to the light. As a Mom, I strive to be an example to my children. Writing for Shot@Life, working with the UN Foundation and a member of the Global Team of 200 because my heart feels the need, and so that my children can see that there is more than what they see in this plastic world we live in.
In the words of BlogHer;
Ayesha Sultana, a Pakistan Native residing in Canada, writes at Dance of Red to shed light on gender violence and sexual violence, and its wider impact on society.
Jennifer Tosch comes to us from The Netherlands, where she works to explore and share the ‘hidden histories’ of the African Diaspora throughout the world, many of the stories focus on Africa and the former colonies of the Netherlands, through her site and Facebook page, Black Heritage Tours.
Purnima Ramakrishnan lives and works in India, creating support and raising awareness for mothers and children through her personal blog and as one of the Senior Editors of World Moms Blog.
Zeng Jinyan was honored in both 2007 and 2009, but was unable to attend due to being under house arrest in China because of her blog and her husband’s work as an environmental and AIDS activist. (Her journey has been well-documented here on BlogHer.com.) Named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2007, Zeng Jinyan was allowed to move to Hong Kong and can travel. We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to host her. Finally.
I hope that you look them up, that you follow their work, that you can know their names … and be proud of the mark that women are making on the world!
These women, they are more. They are change … and thank you to BlogHer for letting their lights shine every so brightly. They bear witness to my children, this next generation, and I pray they will raise the torch and carry it forward. So BlogHer ladies, if I may be so bold, next year, bring these ladies into the ballroom, let the spotlights lift their causes, let the thousands of women who descend on this conference feed their souls, take in the spirit of the scholarship winners and carry their energy home.
When we see what they have achieved alone, imagine what we could do together?
This – this is Life Well Said.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by contributor, Nicole Morgan of Sisters from Another Mister in Florida, USA.
Photo credit to Beth Rosen.