This Mother’s Day it was hard not to reflect on the pain of the mothers in Nigeria whose daughters, more than 200 of them, were kidnapped from their school last month by brutal rebels and are still missing. It is a shocking crime. But violence of all types against women and girls is also shockingly common. And that is one of the reasons that Ritu Sharma co-founded Women Thrive in 1998.
The mission of Women Thrive is to give voice to the countless women around the world who are struggling to break free of the violence, poverty, hunger and inequality which impact their lives from cradle to grave.
The numbers tell a sobering story:
-One of every three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lives including rape, acid burnings, honor killings and genital mutilation. That number rises dramatically to 70% or higher in some countries.
-Of the 71 million children in the world who do not go to school, 3 out of 5 are girls.
-And women comprise most of the 800-million people worldwide who go hungry every day.
Women Thrive is a bridge between these impoverished women and policy makers in Washington D.C. who can provide the international aid and assistance that can change women’s lives and, ultimately, the world.
“We lead a diverse and powerful coalition of more than 50 organizations and thousands of Americans who want to see their government do what is right for women,” says Ritu, “and when we find the right solutions, we know exactly who in Washington to take those ideas to, to make them happen.”
And it’s a win-win situation because research shows that when women thrive physically and economically, so do their families, their communities and their countries.
Ritu’s commitment to the plight of poor women in the world is very personal.
She is a first-generation American of East Indian heritage whose family left behind generations of violence and poverty in Punjab, India, in search of a new life in the United States, and that was a game changer for her. From that time on, she had the freedom and the opportunity to pursue a good education and her dreams. Ritu believes that she, and all Americans whose lives are so fortunate, must be a force in the world to lift up others who are suffering. And that’s what Women Thrive strives to do.
“For most of my young childhood,” Ritu says, “I dreamed of being a National Geographic photographer. I certainly never imagined that I would dedicate my life to advancing rights for women and girls around the globe, but here I am. It's a mission I feel in my bones.”