Trying to Change the World


A woman’s body is not a commodity, a weapon, or an object.

You, in your perfectly heated building, sipping on your coffee, fully clothed, well-rested, and fed, nod your head to that statement. It’s a given. But in many parts of the world, especially in war torn or impoverished nations, this basic truth is not a given. Women are exploited and abused. They are denied the very basic rights that we believe are instilled in us just by being born: education, ownership of one’s body, and autonomy.

Why You Should Care About These Women

With education comes the ability to put words and arguments to your thoughts. To fight for your own property. To defend yourself. Even to explain the abuse you’ve endured. With ownership of one’s body comes the ability to say no and to be heard. To deny another person’s advances. To take pride in who you are. With autonomy comes the right to own land. To have a business. To be successful. And when these are stripped away, women are left with little more than survival instincts and debilitating stigmas.

When we look at the Congo, named the most dangerous place to live as a woman, we see that sexual violence isn’t the rare attack on a college campus. It’s deep and pervasive. It’s a way of life. It’s an entire culture. Rape has become a weapon of war. The problem has escalated beyond comprehension with estimates stating that upwards of 70% of women in this region have experienced sexual violence. Imagine if 7 out of 10 women you knew had been raped, even tortured, just for being born a woman in the wrong country.

Unfortunately, Congo isn’t isolated in this. As refugees flee from countries like South Sudan, Syria, and Iraq, we realize that this nightmare has become a reality for too many women. Women who are left crippled and shamed, unable to work in their communities and therefore outcasts in the societies that violated them. A culture that condones this kind of violence against women is doomed. And I’m choosing today to fight against it.


How I’m Choosing to Help 

One Million Thumbprints  (1MT) is a grassroots movement whose only goal is to aid these women in whatever way is most effective and impactful. We cannot sit by and let them starve any longer. We cannot sit by and let their husbands be murdered, their lands ripped away, and their homes and futures be destroyed. We’re taking a stand with them and for them.

1MT has a two-pronged approach: 1. We want to advocate to people who will listen—namely the UN—to actually follow through with all of these resolutions that are being passed to protect women in conflict zones. We want to hold them accountable for playing a role in this global crisis (because that’s what it is). 2. We are partnering with organizations already on the ground in these countries, organizations that already have a reputation of achieving success and progress in these areas. Through these organizations we hope to meet practical needs (food, clothing, shelter, rape kits, and trauma assistance), to help stabilize the community (by establishing Village Peace Committees—training natives in negotiation and peacemaking), and to provide sustainable solutions (through economic and educational development, establishing micro-savings, microfinance, and farming co-ops, including refugee resettlement).

Ultimately, One Million Thumbprints is fighting to save women, to help women, to restore women. As part of this initiative, we’re taking a trip in March of 2016 to meet with our implementing partners. We will be going into these areas and talking with women who are affected by sexual violence and we’ll be meeting with the people who are helping piece their lives back together. And finally, on March 8, 2016 (International Women’s Day), we’ll be summitting Mt. Kilimanjaro with a team full of women from varying backgrounds, nationalities, and religions. I am thrilled and excited and terrified.

What’s Your Role in All of This?

“Peace” is an intimidating word that feels impossible to explain, much less fight for. But that’s exactly what we’re doing. I almost feel like it’d be easier to support something smaller, less ambitious, less scary, because that’s easier to sell. People will support a campaign to find an ALS cure but “world peace” isn’t worth the investment.

But here’s my plea to you. I’m asking, begging, for you to get involved: Please, please become an active partner in changing the world. In fighting for peace. I know it’s not easy, and you probably feel that your contribution (of time, money, or support) would be nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But the beautiful truth is “what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”

A broken system can’t fix itself. It’s only through grassroots movements in these areas, through UN support, through challenging and changing the status quo that we even have a shot at a better, brighter tomorrow. Make no mistake, here in our comfy homes and pretty suburbs we will not be immune to the disastrous fallout of this kind of violence. No man is immune to it. So let’s fight:

How you can get involved: 

  1. Above all else, go HERE and add your “thumbprint.” This is a petition we’re compiling to send to the UN to appeal for more funding and follow-through on current programs.
  2. If you’re feeling super ambitious, you can collect thumbprints and names for us! We’ll be sending these to the UN in batches of 1,000. That seems like a pretty reasonable goal, right?
  3. You can donate to the cause HERE. I’ve got a big goal ($20,000!), but that’s because I know how important this is. I know how much that money can do. I know the women that it can feed and the lives that it can change.
  4. You can follow my updates about my trip on this blog! We’re five months out from the trip now and with fundraising and training and preparation in full swing, I’ll be sure to give you the blow-by-blow.

At the end of the day, “peace” is not a fight for Christians or women or the oppressed or the educated. Peace is for every man. It’s the motivation for every heartbeat and the impetus for every breath. Peace on earth.

So lend me your thumbprints, your names, your encouragement, your hard-earned money, and your support. Some are meant to give to fight the problem, but I know that I was meant to help change it. And it’s going to be a pretty wild ride.

Author: Joy Beth Smith

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