March Forth

For me the month of March brings a feeling of hope, a beacon at the end of a long, cold winter. March is the means to an end, bringing with it the anticipation of April and spring. March also has a few of my favorite days -- March 4th, or March Forth, as I always recognize it, International Women's Day on March 8th, and then of course the entire month is Women's History Month.

For those unfamiliar with my affinity for the special day of March 4th, the day has been transformed for me, and many others, as a reminder to march forth. It's a day to be engaged, to stretch, to make a difference, to refuse to let excuses get in the way of goals, and to dare. In my 25+ years of recognizing March Forth, I have literally marched against nuclear weapons, called every one of my elected officials from school board members to Congressional members, made a few life altering personal decisions, and even marched around a room, banging drums with a group of preschoolers declaring that we would not say mean things to others.

But even on a day that inspires, somewhere another man will rape or beat his partner. And at the end of today another woman and another child will experience pain at the hands of someone who pledged to love them. On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States.*

We can continue to enact legislation and laws. We can continue to raise awareness and alarm. But are we fully committed to make the systemic and social change necessary to eliminate the crimes of domestic and sexual violence? Are we ready to examine what is keeping us from having safe, equal and accountable communities? Are we prepared to insist, demand, and expect our leaders to make equality a top priority?

The simplest way to start your march is to be educated. Educate yourself about domestic violence and sexual assault. Armed with this information, pass it on. Share it with your children, teens, teachers, coworkers, and policy makers. Become advocates and ambassadors - tweet about it, post it on Facebook, talk about it with your coworkers. Email your elected officials and remind them that there is much work to be done to promote and ensure equality for all.

This year the theme for International Women's Day is Inspiring Change. This theme encourages advocacy for women's advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women's equality and vigilance inspiring positive change. And interestingly, the theme of Women's History Month, Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment, speaks to and honors the extraordinary, and often unrecognized, determination and tenacity of women.

These themes speak loudly to me. Can you hear them? It sounds like a calling for each of us to March Forth for women and girls -- right now. Because when you're a victim every minute counts.

*Based on the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control in 2010.