International Peace Day
North Korea. Syria. Yemen. Afghanistan. #MeToo. Poverty. Inequality. Every day, our social media feeds reel with devastating dispatches of destruction and disempowerment from all corners of the world. It’s easy to forget what peace looks and sounds like.
Luckily, we work with women around the world who remind us regularly. On September 21, the International Day of Peace, we’re reminded that peace isn’t an event, it’s a process. And we need to get to work.
To keep up the momentum, we’re highlighting the unsung heroes on our Speakers Bureau— the powerful women on the frontlines of peacekeeping around the world. Through art, politics and activism, these fierce women remind us that the most powerful and lasting way to counter war and violence is to build a culture of peace.
Get inspired. It’s time to roll up our sleeves.
Gina Clayton launched Essie Justice Group in 2014 to engage and mobilize women with incarcerated loved ones to end mass incarceration’s harm to women.
Gina saw the impact of incarceration on women both in her personal and professional life. Despite years as a community organizer in Los Angeles, it wasn’t until someone she loved was sentenced to 20 years in prison that her focus centered on the criminal justice system.
Through the relationships she built with her clients at The Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Gina recognized systemic patterns of harm: women with loved ones behind bars were suffering, resulting in weakened communities. Gina returned to California and recruited women who had family members in prison to help develop a model that both heals and unlocks the powerful advocacy potential of women. Gina’s award-winning, isolation-breaking Essie model successfully increases mental wellbeing, resources available for single-parent families, and civic participation among women.
Priya Shah is a Chicago creative artist and entrepreneur, building a network of artists and collaborators dedicated to igniting social awareness and change through art and imagination.
A few years ago, she founded the non-profit organization The Simple Good which aims to connect the meaning of “good” from around the world in order to empower at-risk youth to become positive activists through art and discussion. From schools in Chicago to Rwanda — and Uganda this December where TSG will be working with former child soldiers — Priya is teaching children how to use art as a means to process life.
“I’m a brown woman who was born with one hand,” says Priya. “I know the important of resilience and that’s what we need to teach youth.”
Learn more about her upcoming project in Uganda and get involved here.
Saru Jayaraman is on a mission to revolutionize the restaurant industry in America. In January 2018, she attended the Golden Globes as the guest of actor Amy Poehler, where she brought widespread attention to the issue of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. Seventy one percent of servers are women and the restaurant industry is the source of more sexual-harassment claims than any other industry. As the Co-Founder and President of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), her One Fair Wage campaign seeks to eliminate the lower minimum wage for tipped workers.
“Our 17 years of research shows the most effective way to eliminate harassment is to pay workers a full wage, rather than forcing them to rely on a tipped income,” says Saru. “States that pay the One Fair Wage have half the rate of sexual harassment.”
To get at inequities in the industry, she once conducted a study in which she sent 400 pairs of white and minority applicants to fine-dining restaurants in New York, Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans. She found that white applicants were twice as likely to land a position, even in situations where the person of color had a better CV.
Amy Ziering is a two-time Emmy Award winning and Academy Award nominated documentarian who exposes corruption and wrongdoing in some of the most powerful industries in America.
Her most recent film, Bleeding Edge examines the $400 billion medical device industry and how it has wreaked havoc on the lives of thousands. After years of steadfastly refusing to pull its harmful birth-control device Essure from the U.S. market, Bayer finally caved to mounting pressure from the Netflix Original documentary. On the day it was released, Bayer withdrew Essure from U.S. markets.
The Hunting Ground— a piercing, monumental exposé of rape culture on college campuses— helped change policies in dozens of states and hundreds of colleges and universities. Her previous film, The Invisible War, a groundbreaking investigation into the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military, spurred Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to announce significant policy changes and catalyzed Congress to pen and pass 35 pieces of reform legislation.
“When we started making The Invisible War in 2006, it was extremely hard to get funders on board to support the film,” she told Vanity Fair magazine last year. “We were told time and again that no one was interested in women’s stories about rape,” she said. “I remember going into our first Sundance screening and one publicist yelling to ours: ‘Good luck with that rape film.’ But much to everyone’s surprise (including our own), [the film] took the festival by storm and went on to instigate five congressional hearings and lead to the passing of 35 pieces of legislation.”
Clemantine Wamariya fled genocide in her native Rwanda when she was only 6 years old.
Last summer, she published her first book The Girl Who Smiled Beads, a gripping memoir that follows her life on the run in Africa, and her life in the United States, where she was granted refugee status at the age of 12. In 2006, she became known as the “Oprah Girl.” Clemantine and her sister, Claire, thought they were being invited to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show to discuss their experiences of the Rwandan genocide. But, unbeknown to the sisters, the show’s producers had flown their family in from Africa.
Despite the odds, Clemantine received her BA in Comparative Literature from Yale University in 2014. Clemantine is committed to ensuring that young Africans in the diaspora and within the continent are provided with the opportunities they need to thrive and to catalyze African development.
Sakena Yacoobi believes peace won’t come to Afghanistan — a country of forever war — until women are at table and leading. To that end, she co-founded Creating Hope International and is President and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL).
AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women. After the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s, AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls in Afghanistan. AIL was also the first organization that opened Women’s Learning Centers for Afghan women—a concept now copied by many organizations throughout the country. Using their grassroots strategies, AIL now serves 350,000 women and children each year through its Educational Learning Centers, schools and clinics in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mona Haydar’s simple yet courageous stand to highlight the humanity of Muslim-Americans is a powerful testimony in an increasingly Islamophobic world.
Raised in Flint, Michigan, Mona has been active for over a decade in the spoken word poetry community. She blends her spirituality, environmentalism, and activism together to offer classes and retreats on mindfulness and Islamic spirituality, workshops on creative writing, and poetry performances.
In 2015, Mona and her husband, Sebastian, set up a stand in Cambridge, Massachusetts with a sign reading “Ask a Muslim,” encouraging open and loving dialogue to replace the trauma of bigotry with healing and humanity.
The “Ask a Muslim” campaign was featured by Microsoft for their 2016 holiday commercial, “Spread Harmony,” which promoted ordinary people who offer a vision of “hope, peace and beauty.” In 2017, Mona went viral for her song titled “hijabi” in which she challenged orientalist narratives about Muslim women through her lyrics and video.
Her new EP, “Barbarican,” explores her place in America as a Syrian-American woman. She is grateful for the freedoms she has in the U.S. but demands more from a country that is now at an unprecedented inflection point.