Focus on Women

Happy (Belated) International Women’s Day!

March 9th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

In honor of International Women’s Day yesterday, UN Women released a new song to celebrate women around the world, and to raise awareness that what affects one of us, affects all of us.    Access this inspiring song here.  Then take action to improve gender equality and advocate for women’s rights.

A Woman Making A Difference

January 6th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

Claudia Paz y Paz is 46.  A former human rights lawyer, she now holds what could be one of the most dangerous jobs in Latin America, “confronting the most feared and powerful men of the Guatamalen present: gang leaders, dirty public officials, shot-callers in the Mexican drug cartels who have bled in from the north.”  She is Guatemala’s Attorney General.  Her willingness to tackle crimes and human rights violations is truly inspiring.  Read more about it here.

Are You an Anonymous Extraordinary?

October 18th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Natalie Warner is an anonymous extraordinary–and she’s darn inspiring, too.  Find out more about what an anonymous extraordinary is and how you can become one here.  You’re never too young (or too old) to start.


Watch “Half the Sky” with Me!

October 1st, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

In the United States a documentary called “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women” will be broadcast on PBS on October 1 and 2. The film was shot in 10 countries (Cambodia, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia and the U.S.) and introduces women and girls who are living under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable — and fighting bravely to change them.

If you enjoyed reading “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, you’ll love this film.  I’ll be watching it tonight and tomorrow–and I encourage you to watch it too.

For more information about the Half the Sky Movement, click here.

Women Are Golden at the Olympics

August 12th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

The closing of the 2012 Olympic Games in London marks a historic time for women in sports.  For the first time, every country participating has had at least one woman on the team.  The US team has–for the first time–more women athletes than men.  And, they have won more gold medals than the men, too.  Not only that, they have won more medals than all but four countries.

For a fascinating breakdown on how far women have come at the Olympics (and why Title IX has contributed to the success of American female athletes), click here.  I was particularly taken with the graphs showing the women by sport, and the increase in successful women Olympians since Title IX was enacted 40 years ago.



Why Soroptimists Do What We Do

March 26th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

If you’ve ever wondered why Soroptimists are so committed to improving the lives of women and girls, let me boil it down for you.  We make a difference.  My club recently honored an amazing woman named Francina who is trying to live her dreams for economic empowerment by getting a college degree.  Not only is she raising her daughter as a single mother, she is raising her sister’s children, too.  Francina received a Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Award on March 8.  Her thank you note to our club says it all.

I want to use this free time to express my heartfelt thank you.  I had a wonderful evening on Thursday, and it was a pleasure meeting all of you. Each of you are a role model to me because you do dedicate your lives to do what I want to be able to achieve in the future: that is helping and encouraging others. My nerves did not let my brain work as well as I would’ve wanted that evening, so I really couldn’t express how wonderful and how great it was to spend those hours with all of you.

I would like to add that my children were also very happy about the award. When I returned home and showed my daughter the award certificates, she ran inside to her room to bring the rest of the kids out while shouting:”You guys, my mommy got an award for being the best mom ever!”

They began celebrating too, and it got even crazier when I told her that I also got a check for one thousand dollars. She told everyone, “And guys, we are not poor anymore! My mommy got ONE THOUSAND dollars”. My nephews and her were jumping and giggling in celebration. I thought that was so funny that I wanted to share it with you.

Thursday’s dinner will remain in my heart for a long time. Thank you.



Celebrating Women’s History Month

February 28th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Women’s History Month will begin on Thursday., an inspiring website featuring stories about extraordinary women from various careers, provides some excellent suggestions for celebrating it.  One of them is to talk to teachers at your local school to find out whether there are any lesson plans for Women’s History Month, and if not, to offer to do a program in partnership with the school.

Sadly, “most girls grow up knowing very little about the Women’s Suffrage movement, and what a long hard battle those women fought so we could simply step in a voting booth,” according to the site.  The good news is that we can do something about it.  After all, how can we expect children to celebrate Women’s History Month (and International Women’s Day on March 8), if we don’t celebrate it ourselves?

For more suggestions to raise awareness of the contributions of women this coming month, visit:

You go, girls!


Poverty, Greed, Taxes and the Throwaways

January 28th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Essays and stories about teenage foster girls always catch my eye.  This one is a powerful story–about a girl who was born poor, was raped (along with her mother), was ultimately placed in the foster care system, and has managed to educate and make something of herself in spite of it all.  It’s long–and sometimes the language is a little rough.  But it’s worth reading every word to get to one very powerful point at the very end.

I don’t know about you, but after reading this, the Occupy Movement is starting to make more sense to me.

Access to Education Makes the Difference

January 23rd, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Here’s an inspiring story about a young woman, who at the age of 23, is one of Nigeria’s youngest female pilots.  Imoleayo Adebule describes her educational journey, how she made the switch from mechanical engineering to aviation technology to her current job as a pilot.  Not only is she clearly very smart, she is persistent!

But here’s the thing.  Were it not for the willingness of a private company to sponsor her and pay for her courses, Imoleayo would not be where she is today–high in the sky.

Access to education is one of the biggest barriers to overcoming poverty.   Sadly, if a child is not in school today, she is probably a girl, denied access because of her gender.  Stories like this one give me hope for the thousands of other girls in the world have the potential to live their dreams–with a little help from Soroptimists and people like us.

Monday Morning Inspiration

January 9th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Fawzia Koofi is one inspiring woman.  From almost being killed as an infant (because she was a girl) to becoming an outspoken advocate for women in Afghanistan, her story is worth reading.  Could she become Afghanistan’s first female president?  Who knows, but after what she’s been through, I wouldn’t bet against her.  Learn more about this amazing woman here:

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