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Women of the United Nations: From Eleanor Roosevelt to Angelina Jolie

Eleanor Roosevelt

The power of women to change the world is evident. Former First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt never stopped working for “the common man.” Famous for her social and political beliefs, she did not hesitate for a moment to back reforms which were unpopular and risky. The Civil Rights Movement, Women’s rights, Social Rights of the poor and disenfranchised—Eleanor always found her voice, speaking out and delivering a clear message regarding her stance.

Strong and independent, Eleanor was a woman of great compassion and generosity. Her love of humanity reached the highest of levels as the first U.S. representative in the United Nations and as a chairperson and highly regarded member of the UN Commission on Human Rights. While in that position, she helped create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Beyond her status as former First Lady, Eleanor’s qualifications for such a monumental task was her conviction that every person’s dignity and rights had to be protected. Her hope was that the Declaration would eventually be recognized throughout the world and that all nations would come to honor it.

But Eleanor Roosevelt’s assertions represented only the beginning of a long and ongoing effort for women to become more involved in peace issues at an international level. Over sixty years after the Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations, the struggle for international rights continues. As far as female activists are concerned, that long and arduous road has led to the modern heroine—a dedicated, passionate woman who understands her involvement with the world’s struggle for peace and equality isn’t just a choice. It’s a must. The days of listening to devastating news reports and shaking our heads are over. It’s time to put our hearts on the front line.

Angelina Jolie, an academy award-winning actress, proves over and over again that she is in touch with the world and does not hesitate to use her status as a superstar to voice her concerns. A global citizen, she works tirelessly as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a UN agency that delivers assistance to tens of millions of refugees around the globe.

A powerful woman who uses her voice . . . you bet. Angelina uses her ability to draw high media coverage to raise awareness of the tragic and heart-breaking conditions of refugees, conditions so often not given proper media attention. If anyone is to be characterized as fearless, we must give credit where credit is due. Although we can probably be certain that Angelina has been in quite dangerous circumstances because of her beliefs and her desire to help, she has nonetheless gone beyond her fear, which is the true meaning of being fearless.

As women, that’s our test. Can we go beyond our fear? Can we assert our beliefs and become voices of peace even when the situation is risky and will most definitely be be met with resistance?

One thing is certain: It is imperative that more women become part of the peace process no matter where that is. In Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur. The list, unfortunately, seems endless. But it is certainly time for women to be active, not only talking about resolution, but willing to get out there and stand in the streets, offering their presence wherever necessary.

Now, does it mean that women are waging war against men if they take such a stance?

Of course not.

Does it mean we would be waging peace, trying to balance the feminine with the masculine to create a saner and safer world?

Yes, exactly.

No doubt Eleanor would agree. “No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.”

Sometimes the simple truth says it all.

Original article first appeared in PURE VISION: Powerful Women Changing the World: http://perribirney.wordpress.com

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