Last month I attended the Newsweek sponsored “Women in the World Summit,” which assembled women leaders from around the world to share their stories. There were the usual mix of inspirational speakers and celebrities from Angelina Jolie to Gloria Steinem to Madeleine Albright. But the speakers who moved me most were women like Nobel Laureate Leyman Gbowee, who talked about her efforts to bring peace to Liberia, and Guatemalan journalist Sylvia Gereda, who puts her life on the line everyday to investigate the gruesome murders of women in Central America that go largely unreported.
For a brief time right out of college, I worked for the National Democratic Institute in Washington DC, the perfect job to apply my fresh degrees in both Latin American Studies and Political Science. On one project, I accompanied American campaign expert Amy Conroy (who was at the time the director of the Women’s Campaign Fund) to Argentina to provide training and support to women candidates at the local, provincial and federal levels. It was on this trip that we visited Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires where mothers and grandmothers had marched in protest for their disappeared children during Argentina’s period of dictatorship and state terrorism (1976–1983). It is not enough to say that it was overwhelming to be in the place where women broke the silence during the insidious Dirty War. Grannies in white kerchiefs grew a movement in the face of violence to shame a nation beyond its borders.
So I was particularly moved during the Summit when Leyman Gbowee, referring to mobilizing women to demand peace in Liberia, said, “A victim is that person who sits and waits for a knight in shining armor…we have to be our own Gandhis, our own Kings, our own Mandelas.”
In a time when television is saturated with celebrity, isn’t there any room for a show that celebrates the small miracles of these lesser known heroes?