Women Who Know the Power of Joining Hands to Create Change
When I first met Mirna Cunningham nearly thirty years ago, her grip as we shook hands and embraced told me more than I can ever hope to express in words. It was just the beginning. From that day, our friendship grew as we built together a very special women’s organization: MADRE.
In the summer of 1983, as a long-time peace and justice activist, I joined a group of US women invited by Mirna and other Nicaraguan women to see for ourselves the devastation caused by the US government’s undeclared war on their country.
I was deeply moved by what I saw and heard on that visit. Above all, I was moved by Mirna and other Nicaraguan women like her; women who wielded joy as a weapon against despair and knew the power of joining hands to create change.
After the visit, we set out to build an organization that would respond to the needs of women and families threatened by US policy and give people in the US concrete ways to build alternatives to unjust policies.
Our commitment ran deep, but we never dreamed when we founded MADRE that we were laying the foundation for an international women’s human rights organization that would last for decades and grow to encompass a network of women activists, advocates, educators and community leaders in more than a dozen countries. I had no idea then that being among MADRE’s founders would be one of my proudest accomplishments.
In 1991, I became MADRE’s Executive Director. Since then, we’ve expanded our programs to the Middle East, Africa and Asia. We’ve advanced the fight for women’s human rights at the United Nations and we’ve produced educational material that’s helped shift the conversation about social justice and women’s rights—in the US and globally.
I know now that, almost thirty years ago in Nicaragua, we planted a seed. Over the years, with Mirna and with all the many women with whom I have been proud to partner, we nurtured that seed. Today, as I hold Mirna’s grandchildren in my arms and laugh with her children, as Mirna and I continue to strategize and advocate for women’s rights, I know that together we have built a family unlike any other.
-Vivian Stromberg, MADRE