Tribute to Women

Student Movement of Real Change: Celebrating women around the world this Mother’s Day

By: Mina Tanaka on Women’s Role in Lakota Spirituality May 18, 2009

Filed under: Personal Stories — smrctributetowomen @ 9:10 am

In the tradition of the Lakota people, women employ a very high status within the home and society. This creation story of the Lakota not only highlights their beautiful connection to the Earth and their spiritual nature, but also reveals the roots of their sacred view of women.

In the beginning, there was an Entity which moved about in the blackness of space. It was soft and shapeless like molten lava. The Lakota people called it Iyan Tokaheya (The First Stone).


At one point in time, Iyan Tokaheya decided to create something beautiful from himself, so he turned himself inside out and covered himself all about. This is where selfishness originated from. For once he started creation, he had to satisfy selfish desires for everything that was created after that. It is here where we acknowledge that selfishness is a natural occurrence.


As he did this, his blood came out and his blood was blue. This is where we get our water from, and so it is sacred. And in this water is the spirit of our women. Her name is Woope. Because she is created from the blood of god, she is closest to god and is therefore sacred. Woope is the keeper of the laws of god.


Woope took the water in her hands, threw them into the heavens and created the stars. Thus, what is on Earth is also in the heavens, and a Lakota belief that we are related to the star people.


As Iyan Tokaheya began to create everything that is, he began to harden and so the world was born, half Earth, half Water.


In Lakota, the word “Woope” also refers to the proper way to behave, or the code of conduct for a respectful and peaceful lifestyle that the Lakota traditionally follow. We can see how central the female figure is in this creation story and also in their culture, and because women of subsequent generations are representations of Woope, they are to be treated with equal amounts of reverence and respect. Sadly, generations of turmoil have led this esteemed view of women somewhat astray. Today, we see unprecedented levels of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assaults in the Lakota communities. In fact, Native American women experience the highest rate of violence of any group in the United States. Perhaps what is needed to remedy this devastating problem now is a retrospective eye on the given situation, to take a step back to their spiritual past.

[The story in italics is adapted from “The Creation Story of the Lakota” by Lawrence Swallow]


By: Kaitlin Walter May 11, 2009

Filed under: Personal Stories — smrctributetowomen @ 8:57 am

This post is written by Kaitlin Walter, a current student at Emory University and a Global Development Fellow. She will return to Manyeleti, South Africa this summer for one year to implement the Bakery Social Entrepreneurship Project.

Women play many pivotal roles in Uta: mother (to many), teacher, caretaker, wife, aunt, sister, friend. In fact, when you walk around Uta, you will see women carrying out the daily work of the village, keeping things going, running the show. In every book that I have read about social enterprise, and in many of microcredit’s success stories, women come up again and again as the agents through which to effect social change and market development. (more…)


Dan Armanios shares his mother’s inspiring story May 8, 2009

Filed under: Personal Stories — smrctributetowomen @ 9:22 am
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Daniel Armanios joined SMRC for its inaugural Global Development Internship in Manyeleti, South Africa in 2007. He produced a textbook for rural education in Africa to teach math and science to high school students. The students he tutored had a 100% pass rate on the national exams. He is a Truman and Rhodes Scholar, and plans to pursue his PhD next year.

My mother taught me change often comes in small packages but are no less significant…

In life, we often come upon those rare individuals that have the unique mixture of a will to preserve, an intellect with foresight, and an energy that inspires. For those of us who have the even rarer fortune to have those individuals as family, public service often becomes a lifestyle construed as easy. This is a reminder to me that change is not something that happens casually. (more…)


Lily, “Hometown Hero” in Denver Daily News May 7, 2009

Filed under: Articles,Personal Stories — smrctributetowomen @ 12:33 pm
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Hometown hero
Denver woman helps improve lives in Kenya
Joshua Wolpe, DDN Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009

Grand ideas are easy to come by, but seeing them through is less so. Lily Muldoon’s grand idea involved overhauling the health, sanitation and education systems of Kayafungo, a sprawling series of 25 villages in Kenya comprised of 40,000 people. Her quest to see that idea come to fruition led her on an odyssey that would change her life forever. Continue reading the article…


By: Claire Bristow on the women of Uta

Filed under: Personal Stories — smrctributetowomen @ 8:58 am
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This post is written by Claire Bristow, a current student at the University College London and a Global Development Fellow. She will return to Manyeleti, South Africa this summer for one year with Sarah Whitney, her partner fellow, to build the Uta Community Center.

In honor of SMRC’s “Tribute to Women”, I have dedicated this blog post to updates about how the Uta Community Center will target women specifically.  In Uta there is no industry.  Uta has no farming so very few people have jobs and of those that do, they are hours away and people will live at the jobs. Many women are out of work and live at home, alone with their children, while their husbands work away from Uta.  Women who don’t have jobs still have a huge responsibility to complete domestic work and raise their children.  Those women that do have jobs have the double burden of the domestic work while also earning money.  This means that women in Uta are often overworked retrieving water, cooking for their families, looking after their children and with the added stress of poverty this is something to recognize and commend.

For the strong, admirable women of Uta we want to provide something special through the Uta Community Center.  There are a few informal women’s groups in Uta that could benefit from the community center by creating projects, holding meetings and educational workshops.  We want to target women specifically because they are so involved in their children’s lives that offering education workshops to them will also benefit their children.  Also women are the most at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and also the least likely to have access to antiretroviral treatment.  AIDS prevention in South Africa frequently encourages condom use, minimization of partners and treatment of STIs.  These three strategies are very important to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS but aren’t always possible for women who have little power to control sexual encounters, especially with their husbands.  If the Uta Community Center can empower the women of Uta through education (HIV/AIDS prevention, nutrition education, academic education etc.), then perhaps the women of Uta can have a chance to defend themselves against a deadly virus and help alleviate the burden of poverty and in-access to public services.

Women of Uta also have the capacity to create their own projects to earn extra money for their families. The community center will run a micro-finance program in which women can apply for small loans to start up projects in their community.  This will empower women by providing a way for them to earn their own money.

The women of Uta deserve this opportunity to find equality within their homes and their communities, and the Uta Community Center is dedicated to finding ways to achieve this goal.


Doris Mashego of Uta, South Africa May 6, 2009

Doris Mashego is from Uta, South Africa. She has raised 3 children as a single mother while managing the community’s nursery school and fulfilling her role as its headmaster and teacher. The story of a single, working mother of 3 has become common for our generation; however, Doris’ story is unique. Watch the video below to learn more!


By: Julie Walz on Women and Education May 4, 2009

Filed under: Personal Stories — smrctributetowomen @ 10:39 am
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This post is written by Julie Walz, a current Georgetown University student and Global Development Fellow. She will return to Manyeleti, South Africa this summer with David Lamb, her partner fellow, to implement the Mundzuku Scholarship Project.

In the United States today, more women than men attend college.  The classic gender barrier in education is being worn away as increasingly women are pursuing higher degrees, often outperforming their male counterparts.  Little girls dream of not only becoming mothers but of becoming doctors and lawyers and financial analysts (well, maybe neither little girls or boys dream of becoming financial analysts, but you get the picture.)  Girls in the Manyeleti community share these same dreams.  Last summer when working to choose a 7th grade girl to be the recipient of a scholarship to attend a private high school, David and I interviewed many at the top of their class.  The girls shared big dreams with us; wanting to go to university, wanting to improve their English, wanting to become nurses and lawyers. (more…)