International Women’s Day: A Spotlight on Local Women Activists

International Women's Day is a global celebration that the United Nations marked as an official day to celebrate the accomplishments of women on March 8,, 1975. The day was inspired by the work of women in labor movements across the U.S. and Europe in the early part of the Twentieth Century.

As the movement of women’s activism grew so did support for women’s rights and gender equality in all spheres of life. International Women’s Day seeks to celebrate the social, economic, and political achievements of women and also signals a call to action for unity and continued activism.

The following are local LBT South Florida women who continue the legacy of International Women’s Day in their efforts to bring about change and empowerment in their communities:

 

Carthy Frye-Thomas, Healthcare Marketing Leader

What Does International Women's Day Means to You?

I am reminded of the poem by William Ross Wallace that I read in high school called, “What Rules the World,” and of that very profound line, "For the Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Is the Hand That Rules the World." The strength of that poem sums up perfectly what International Women’s Day means to me. The contributions that women have made throughout history deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated, as they have clearly changed the course of time.

Is there a historical woman that has inspired you?

There are so many famous women, both nationally and internationally that I admire. I have always been able to see greatness at any stage in life and for that inspiration I look closer to home. My mother, Aldith Phillips, has always been an inspiration of strength, fortitude and perseverance. I have always looked to her for motivation. Additionally, I have had many women mentors who’ve helped me along life’s journey. One of the most encouraging is a non-profit business development executive and business owner, Cynthia Jerry. She is a philanthropist, community leader and mother, who gave me one of my first opportunities to hone my public relations skills.

What is your greatest achievement?

Marrying my wife and the process of starting our family in a community that is not always supportive, but doing so proudly and without apology is without question one of my greatest personal achievements. Professionally speaking, being considered a healthcare warrior, dedicated to creating excellent healthcare experiences, while consistently advocating for the community is also something I’m really proud of. Throughout my career, I’ve worked cross culturally in an effort to eradicate perceived barriers, connect with countless communities and provide programming to a variety of individuals.

How do you personally support or advocate women's empowerment?

I strive to advocate and empower women daily by my involvement in many community organizations, including Suits, Stilettos and Lipstick, Inc. of which I am a board member. Our mission is to empower women and children through education, personal and professional development, mentorship, leadership training, networking and philanthropic endeavors. For the past three years it’s been an honor to support women and give voice to their needs. Working on behalf of women is not only fulfilling, but at times, it can be a lot of fun. Throughout the years I’ve met some great people, grown passionate about my advocacy and learned a lot about myself - perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve amassed from my advocacy is that sometimes in life you don’t find your purpose, your purpose finds you.

                                                        

Martha Sternberg, Self Employed

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

It means women are recognized for their achievements without divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

Is there a historical woman that has inspired you?

Other than my mother, the first real feminist I ever knew, I've always admired and been inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt, wife and political aide of American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Eleanor made a significant contribution to the field of human rights, a topic she campaigned upon throughout her life. As head of the UN human rights commission, she helped to draft the 1948 UN declaration of human rights.

What is your greatest achievement?

That's tough since I'm not sure I've reached that goal yet. But I'd say coming out in the mid-'80s was pretty brave since anti-LGBT sentiment was alive and well in the U.S. as it was the middle of the AIDS crisis. Those of us who were out and fighting for federal funding of AIDS drugs didn't have time to think about what our coming out meant. We just knew we wanted to help save our gay brothers and becoming separatist lesbians like some women we knew was never an option. So, I joined thousands of others at the March on Washington in 1987 for equal rights and in 1993 for federal AIDS funding.

How do you personally support or advocate women's empowerment?

I'm proud to be one the seven founders of the Aqua Foundation for Women and seen how much the organization benefits women in South Florida, whether through grants or scholarships. I was also proud to serve on the boards of Broward Women in Network and Pridelines Youth Services.

 

Elena Naranjo, MS Ed, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

To me, International Women's Day symbolizes the journey of women everywhere around the world to make a space for themselves, where they can be all that they can be.  Women experience different levels of oppression in different parts of the world, but we all experience some form of oppression, even if it's seemingly subtle. And, while I no longer subscribe to a binary gender system, I can appreciate that there is still a large divide between the way "men" and "women" are treated. International Women's Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon the things that still keep us from reaching our full potential.
 
Is there a historical woman that has inspired you?
Probably the first historical woman who impacted and inspired me as a child was Marie Curie. She was a brilliant chemist and physicist. She also had the self-confidence to pursue her dreams and never allowed society to limit her because of her gender. She gave me hope that, I too, had possibilities.
 
What is your greatest achievement?

Being present. I had a realization a few years ago that I wasn't fully awake in my life. I was going through the motions, but I was completely numb. In that "aha" moment, I made a commitment to myself to be more present and make more conscious decisions.  I began to care more deeply about all living beings. It has made me an activist. I connected with my passion and now it is just a part of who I am.
 
How do you personally support or advocate women's empowerment?

I advocate women's empowerment in all of my roles, as partner, stepmother, friend, supervisor, therapist and board member for a women's empowerment organization. I feel that we all have the responsibility to bring each other up.


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