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Celebrating a woman’s roar

The theme for International Women’s Day is “Embrace Equity” / Photo by Rochelle Brown on Unsplash

Although the lion is seen as the king of the jungle, the lioness is the actual leader of the pride. She is the main hunter, protects the cubs, and fends off encroaching animals, even lions.

In 1971, songwriter Helen Reddy penned “I am Woman,” which included the lines “… hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.” But one of the key lines was this: “And I know too much to go back and pretend,” the idea that women won’t be subjugated. Released at the height of the feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the song was used as a theme about empowerment and not giving up.

But the feminist movement had been around for centuries because that fight was about putting an end to sexism and oppression, and fighting for equality – in law, voting rights, and society. The movement adopted March 8, the day when Soviet women gained suffrage, as Women’s Day to celebrate and recognize that the fight for women needed to continue. In 1977, the United Nations formally made March 8 International Women’s Day.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Embrace Equity.” Different than equality, equity means recognizing that people are born in different circumstances and change is needed to make certain everyone has equal access. In short, you need equity to achieve equality. InternationalWomensDay.com states “Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness about discrimination. Take action to drive gender parity. [International Women’s Day (IWD)] belongs to everyone, everywhere. Inclusion means all IWD action is valid.”

How do we celebrate achievement? We recognize that many of our partner organizations are led by women who work tirelessly to advance environmental goals. Texas Health and Environment Alliance (THEA), which is holding its second annual Clean Mud for Bugs fundraiser March 25 – tickets available here, was founded by Jackie Young-Medcalf to clean up toxic chemicals from Harris County.

“International Women’s Day is a day to recognize and celebrate the incredible women that have paved so many paths throughout history that have allowed for other women to become respected leaders worldwide,” said Rachel Jordan, assistant director of THEA. “It is also about celebrating my own accomplishments as a young woman in a leadership position and as a successful woman in science.”

Mary Warwick is executive director of the Houston Humane Society TWRC Wildlife Center, which is committed to providing quality emergency care and rehabilitation for injured, ill, and orphaned wildlife. They also educate and engage the public in wildlife-care programs. Mary Anne Morris is executive director of Houston Audubon Raptor and Nature Center, which focuses on protecting the natural environment for birds and people. Sharon Schmalz is executive director of Houston SPCA’s Wildlife Center of Texas, which provides short-term and long-term rehabilitation with the ultimate goal of releasing those patients back to the wild. Chloe Dannenfelser is the Texas Coastal Outreach Coordinator for American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and oversees the outreach efforts of SPLASh, a partnership between ABC, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, and Black Cat GIS. SPLASh is holding the cleanup event Nestfest on March 14.

And … Charlotte Cisneros is executive director of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition. But there are countless others who need to be recognized, not just for the work they do but because they also serve as role models.

“As a woman in a leadership position,” Jordan said, “I know that there are others looking to me for guidance and I take that responsibility with pride knowing that there will only be an increasing number of female leaders from the following generations.”

Today, we celebrate women in leadership roles, the educators, the scientists, the advocates, etc. We embrace equity and the struggle to create level playing fields. And we jam “I am Woman,” because lionesses roar too.