Inspiring Female Organizers for Peace and Social Good: A Reminder for the Year-Long Celebration of Women’s History Published on March 30, 2024

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, the Peace Development Fund deems it crucial to acknowledge and commemorate the remarkable strides taken and continue to be made by women worldwide in spearheading peaceful organizing efforts for social change. 

Through the recognition and retelling of some of these revolutionaries’ stories, we honor their resilience, courage, and unwavering commitment to justice. Their contributions serve as a testament to the power of grassroots organizing, community mobilization, and nonviolent resistance in effecting positive change and advocacy.

Marielle Franco- Brazil

não vão nos calar: Marielle Presente!

They won’t stop us: Marielle is here

A rising Brazilian politician who spoke up for the nation’s impoverished and marginalized, Marielle Franco’s fervent fight for human rights and democracy was derived from her own childhood growing up in one of Rio de Janeiro’s slums- or favelas- where police, gang, and extrajudicial brutality enacted violent acts of terror on the nation’s most vulnerable.

 As a Black and Queer female politician in a country run historically by those of conservative European descent, Marielle Franco’s fight for the rights of marginalized Brazilians quickly earned her the trust of her Rio de Janeiro voters. In office, she organized a committee that oversaw federal intervention in Rio, bringing a new voice to the table for reproductive, LGBTQ+, and favela residents’ rights. 

In 2018, her assassination by recently identified political adversaries spurred thousands to take to the streets in Brazil to protest her murder and celebrate her life. “Marielle Presente” (Marielle is here) became a global rallying cry for the millions acknowledging and continuing her fight for equal human rights.

Her legacy lives on through the human rights activism continued in Brazil through her name, with her partner Monica Tereza Benicio spearheading the movement. 

Septima Pointsette Clarke

“I believe unconditionally the ability of people to respond

when they are told the truth.

We need to be taught to study rather than believe,

to inquire rather than to affirm.”

-Septima Pointsette Clarke

A champion of civic education for Black voters in the United States, Septima Clarke is known as the “Mother of the Movement”, celebrated through her work as an educator and for her key role  in the Civil Rights Movement to establish educational equality among Black Americans. 

Born in the highly racially segregated city of Charleston in 1989 to a low-income Black family, Septima Clarke’s road to education was not easy. After finishing grade school, she  attended high school at the Avery Institute- a predominantly White-taught and attended school- due to the lack of high schools in Charlestown for Black students. 

Despite facing racial discrimination and limited educational opportunities upon graduation from high school, Clarke began her teaching career in the Sea islands, her passion for teaching fueled by her experiences with education and discrimination. She continued her fight for equal education by establishing “Citizenship Schools”, teaching adults to exercise their civic rights through literacy programs. These schools spread across the South and allowed Black Americans a greater sense of self-pride, community, and civic understanding, paving the way for an increased educated Black-American population.

Fadwa Tuqan

“Waterless we shall remain

here at the mouth of this fountain

till the day of their return

with the oceans of dawn that they embraced

A vision that knows no death.

A love that knows no end.”

-Fadwa Tuqan, “Gone are Those We Love”

Fadwa Tuqan, born in 1917 into the esteemed Palestinian Tuqan family, inherited a legacy of literary prowess. Her journey into poetry began under the guidance of her brother, often referred to as “The Poet of Palestine”. She continued the art of wielding words as a means of expression and resistance, reaching a wide audience of admirers and activists alike.

Tuqan’s poetry served as a poignant reflection of her people’s plight under occupation, eloquently documenting their suffering and resilience. In one of her most renowned works, “The Night and the Horseman,” she vividly depicted the harsh realities endured by Palestinians living under Israeli rule.

Through her verses, Tuqan illustrated the transformative power of poetry, transcending stereotypes and misinformation to convey the true essence of the Palestinian experience. Her commitment to using pen and ink as tools of resistance resonates deeply with many, continuing the legacy of those who have wielded art as a weapon against oppression. This underscores the enduring importance of art in amplifying voices and fostering empathy in the face of adversity.

As March nears its end, the inspiring lives of these women, as well as many more, remind us of the importance of sharing these stories year-round. To inspire the next generations of thinkers, organizers, and champions for peace, the celebration of women’s contributions to society must extend beyond Women’s History Month. By continuously highlighting their achievements, struggles, and triumphs, we ensure that their legacies remain alive and that their invaluable lessons continue to guide and empower future leaders. Let us commit to honoring these women not just in March, but every day, as we work towards a more just, equitable, and peaceful world for all.

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