Based on the Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee’s nonviolent protest for women’s rights in Liberia, I have started this protest as a single woman in New York, a woman who is horrified at watching my rights being stripped away in this country that I love so much. I can no longer sit back and do nothing. I am beginning this grass roots movement to stand up for my rights, your rights, human rights. Will you stand with me?

Lawmakers today seem to have forgotten who those laws are being made for; seem to have forgotten how many of us there are who vote to keep them in office, or to take them out. How about a friendly reminder?

I stand by and for women’s rights.

By wearing all white, or a white shirt with pink “I support women’s rights” on this day, April 2, 2012, I am reminding those who write and pass bills:

Those women deserve honesty from their doctors – 100% of the time.

That a fetus’s life is not more important that the mother’s life.

That state sanctioned rape is still rape and not ok.

That it is not ok to charge a mother with attempted murder for a miscarriage.

That it is not ok to force women to carry a stillborn baby to term.

That it is not ok to take away the funding of women to receive medical treatment to make a political point.

That it is not ok to fire a woman because she is taking a medicine you disagree with.

For these and many other things currently being debated about in legislature, I stand for and by women’s rights.

Leymah Gbowee said, “It’s time for women to stop being politely angry.”

Here is a way to start:

Commit to wearing all white on Monday April 2. Send this invite to people you know. Call your senators and congressmen and let them know you do not approve of what’s happening right now. Stay informed. Talk about it. Shout about it. Do not stop until they have listened. Start visual protests of your own. Vote. Vote. Vote. Do research on what candidates actually believe and look at their voting history. Stay informed. Vote. Be the change.

Will you stand with me?

Before this year, I was your average American person, not really political – just trying to live my life, pay my bills, pursue my dreams – same as the next person. I voted in major elections but that was the extent of my political prowess.  Then things started showing up in my facebook newsfeed – things from my politically active friends who did read about what was going on in the world.  Needless to say, I was upset.  I started finding articles for myself – and I am now more than upset, I am scared.  The more I read, the more frightened I have become about what is happening to my rights as a woman.  So I did what I could.  I resolved to vote this year, to continue to educate myself more thoroughly, and to talk about it with others and get the word out.  I’ve posted articles I found on facebook and twitter.  I’ve written notes about it.  I’ve talked to people about it in bars and restaurants and subway cars.  I’ve looked into places to volunteer my time.

Then I stumbled upon an article about Leymah Gbowee, the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, awarded to her for her work in Liberia. What I read was an inspiration. If one woman could do it there, then why couldn’t one woman do it here? So I am setting off to follow her example, to no longer sit idly by as my rights are stripped away by lawmakers, but instead, to stand up and be heard – and I’ve realized that I want help.  I want to make this into a viral grassroots movement for all the other people out there like me, people who are horrified by what is happening but aren’t sure what to do.  I want to turn postings on social media into a visual force to remind the country, lawmakers and citizens alike that nothing happens in a vacuum and that there are many voices desperate to be heard.  I want an outlet for those voices, a place where they can come and not only be heard, but also make an impact.  Most importantly, I want a way in which every person, regardless of income, ability to travel, age, gender, race, or political leanings could participate.

Along the way I’ve picked up a pretty amazing team.

Jasmine Witmer recently received a Bachelor of Arts in history and women’s studies, subjects that reflect an on-going interest in women’s welfare, past and present.  For some time, activism has played a large role in her life, most notably when she participated in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s  “Practicum for Advocacy” at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and when she traveled to El Salvador to record oral histories of female Guerilla war survivors. For this campaign, Jasmine is acting as a media consultant and assistant publicist.

Cass Morris works in the education department of the American Shakespeare Center and is also a freelance writer of historical nonfiction and genre fiction. She has joined the project out of frustration with a national legislative trend that treats her body like state or public property. Cass is acting as a social media consultant and assistant publicist.

Shandy Smith is a musician, martial artist, and writer. He joins the team as researcher, general cheerleader and all around go-to guy. As a multi-form artist, the right for individual expression is hallowed to him, so when I invited him to be part of the team, he joined up with a hearty smile.

And me?  I’m just a girl.  I live in NYC, pursuing my dreams of becoming a successful theatrical director.  I didn’t consider myself political until recent events forced me to pay attention.  And now I head up this team of wonderful people, trying to reach and motivate as many people as possible. Which brings me to this.

The real goals of this movement are empowerment, education, motivation and change.  I want us all, average citizen and lawmaker alike, to remember who has ultimate control over this – and that’s us – the voters.  I know our political system is far from perfect, but if we don’t speak up when it matters, then it will never get any better.    I want everyone to have a voice, and I want to find a way in which all those voices are heard. Restrictions or laws that affect only on a single subset of people (in this case women) are discrimination, pure and simple.  All people should fight against discrimination, in all its forms, at all times. Leymah Gbowee had a great idea that began with just a handful of women wearing white (five according to her interview) and eventually spread across the country to thousands, enabling her and her movement to vanquish a dictator and enable peace talks for her war torn country.  If Gbowee can do all of that with a grassroots protest there, then imagine what we can do here!  Please, stand by women’s rights and wear all white on April 2nd. Make it noticeable, and tell people why you’re doing it. Post on the community facebook page, share your stories, photos and videos. This is way for everyone to stand up and speak out, regardless of age, race, location or ability to travel.

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