Inside Influence: Women, Power and Organizing

In 1987, three bold, ambitious women in California wanted to create a better way to support human rights activists around the world.  In 1992, a small campaign snowballed from a staff of one single woman into a global movement responsible for a new paradigm for human security. In 1929, twenty-six women pilots met in an empty airplane hangar in Long Island for a discussion on their shared love of flying.

All three of these simple starts led to world-changing results. The first example led to the Global Fund for Women and more than $85 million dollars given to international activists and movements-builders. The second led to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a Nobel Peace Prize, and countless lives saved. And the third led to the formation of the mighty Ninety-Nines, the first organization for women in aviation led by Amelia Earhart.

The New York Times reported on the pilot's initial meeting: "The women are going to organize. We don't know what for."

Eff that noise.

These three events could not be more different in time, location and aim but all three are part of a broader movement: community organizing led by women at the forefront of progress. This is power.

At Be Bold, I run several campaigns that organize immigrant and diaspora women who power the billion-dollar global remittance system for both humanitarian relief efforts and maternal health projects. These women are not wealthy and many lack education but they are mighty pioneers with their feet in two worlds. They are centers of influence who represent networked power that is slowly becoming a form a political impact. They shape purchasing power and community culture in America and their home countries and they are organized. This is real power.

When MomsRising’s Sarah Francis and I first conceptualized this session on women and power for Web of Change, we talked about the tendency to silo networked women and organizing to the reproductive health space, mobilizing against political moments like the Stupak Amendment and Mississippi’s personhood amendment. In political organizing there is a historic value and focus on influencing traditional top-down power structures but what we’re just beginning to see take shape in online organizing is the effectiveness of networked women and how their stories unleash power . The power of networked women inject personal narrative into political dialogues in spaces like Planned Parenthood Saved Me and influence trailblazing campaigns such as International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. Sarah and I both hope this session will be broader conversation on power and the process behind unleashing influence to engage new communities.

I’m looking forward to sharing how we organize and what effective engagement looks like in these communities. All great lessons I’ve been privileged to learned working with and for women at the frontlines of progress and social change.