On Tuesday half a million people tweeted their support for Texas state representative Wendy Davis in the first few hours of her historic filibuster to stop proposed restrictive abortion legislation. And she did it in bright pink shoes!
Just as the wave of support for this brave act was unfolding, I took
the stage with two extraordinary women activists from Afghanistan and
Egypt here at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Our conversation on the Aspen
stage followed a showing of the film Girl Rising which tells the
stories of ten girls and their brave efforts to overcome huge challenges
to go to school. The panel speakers Mona Eltahawy and Shabana
Basij-Rasikh told their own brave stories. The audience quieted into
stunned silence as Mona told of being hauled off, sexually assaulted and
beaten while reporting from Tahrir Square in Egypt, and listened rapt as
Shaban told of being forbidden to attend school by the Taliban in Egypt
so, in response, she cut off all her hair and attended school disguised
as a boy for 12 years.
But these disturbing stories were not at the heart of their remarks. The
heart and soul of their remarks were all about hope, and revolution, and
bravery. As one of the girls in the film, Suma, from Nepal, said, "I have seen what change looks like. It is like a breath running
through you. It cannot be stopped."
And these two young women have not been stopped. Mona has become the
leading social media journalist reporting on Egypt's political unfolding,
and Shabana has created two remarkable institutions that have created
schools and educational opportunities for hundreds of girls in
Afghanistan. Shabana believes that women in the Middle East are at a sea
change moment. She said, "they have found their voice, and they cannot
Many have said that feminism is dead. Maybe it is, in its older
manifestation. After all, it was almost 40 years ago when I was a
member of the first women's organization in a high school in the US. The
women's movement guided my life, and I have dedicated my professional
carrier to working on behalf of women and girls. Yet, there is so much
work still to be done. More than 90 percent of Afghan girls are
illiterate today. One out of every seven young girls in the world are
married before the age of 15. More than 250 million women have no access
to family planning services who want them.
And this is where the color pink comes in. Pink is not a shy color.
Pink demands to be seen; pink is brave and bold and shouts "Here I
am -- make room for me!" And this is what the millions of young women all
across the world are saying. They are claiming their place and asserting
the importance of women to all of the key issues of our time -- the
economy, political stability, health, the environment. The next economic
giant is not Brazil, or India, or China. It is women.
Just as pink-shoed Wendy Davis took the floor of the Texas legislature to
stay "on topic" and to not be moved, Mona tweeted from an Egyptian
prison, and Shabana created a school.
As Martin Luther King wrote from a Birmingham jail fifty years ago
"freedom is never voluntarily given; it must be demanded by the
oppressed." The revolution is coming, and it is wearing bright pink