Women's History Month

5 Things You Can Do To Fight For Women's Rights NOW

"This all allows us to change the conversation, change the tenor. And with that comes real cultural change."

Throughout Women's History Month, we honor the women who fought for our fundamental rights in the U.S. by changing minds, attitudes, and laws. As we reflect back on the 170 years since the first women's rights convention was held, we see how much exciting progress has been made toward equality. 

Women don't just have the right to vote; they're elected to public office at all levels of government and have successfully changed policies that limit women's rights and roles. In 2016, a woman won the popular vote in a presidential election for the first time in history. In the workforce, women have entered careers of every kind. They prove every day that they're strong enough to be firefighters, smart enough to be CEOs, and brave enough to be soldiers. And, a 2017 study found, that more women are better educated than their spouses. 

Yet, there's still so much work to still be done. The #MeToo movement made it clear that women are sexually harassed or assaulted at an abhorrent rate. The #TimesUp campaign brought to light once again that women are still being discriminated against at work. And the countless stories of threats to women's reproductive rights remind us that battles we've already won can be challenged. 

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Organizations such the National Organization for Women, New York (NOW NYC) are working to change laws and attitudes to further women's equality. NOW NYC fights for women's rights by raising awareness, helping to elect pro-women's rights leadership, changing policy, and giving women a voice. They defend reproductive rights, work to create economic equality, promote women's political representation, and aim to end discrimination and violence against women.

We spoke with Sonia Ossorio, the president of NOW NYC to find out more about how we can be activists in the fight against gender discrimination and join the movement.  

Sheila Fitzgerald / Shutterstock.com 

1. If you see something, say something.

"There's probably nothing more important for us to do as individuals than to challenge the everyday sexism that we see happening," Ossorio told A Plus. "To call it out when we see it, to ask others to do the same." 

Whether they're your friend, family member, or a total stranger, no one deserves a pass for disrespecting someone because of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, or religion. Call it out and remind people that they can and should do better

2. Go to events that fight for women's rights.

There are all kinds of events bringing people together to discuss women's issues and actionable change we can create. One such event is the NOW's 2018 Civic Days in Washington, D.C. during the week of April 23 to April 27. 

"It's this great summit for women from across the country," Ossorio said. "We're going to have the opportunity to bring them together to talk about women's issues and what we can do at the local level and at the federal level within our companies and in our communities."

She hopes that both experienced and inexperienced activists alike will attend the event. "There's going to be a lot of discussions and great connections that are made," Ossorio said. "So, that's one of the things happening in April that people could certainly attend."

But there are plenty others. Search local organizations to see what events they're holding or keep an eye out on social media by following them.

Jana Shea / Shutterstock.com 

3. Surround yourself with others who are fighting for women's rights by joining local organizations.

Going to a few events is great, but it's even better to be a member of an organization that's working hard to improve the lives of all women. One option is joining a NOW chapter in your local area. You'll make new friends, have meaningful conversations, and have the opportunity to create real, positive change in your community. 

"There are NOW chapters across the country and if there isn't one in your area, you can start one," Ossorio said. "You only need ten people to start a chapter. You'd be able to find them on your block alone."

For more on how to start your own NOW chapter, visit their website

4. Talk to the men in your life.

"Keep the conversation moving forward. That means being really good bystanders. That means having a lot of conversations, particularly with the men in our lives, about what we'd like to see from them and why being a feminist man is important," Ossorio said. "Have those meaningful conversations with the men in your lives about what it means to be supportive of women." 

In addition, remind men to call out sexism when they see it, too. Ask them to put in extra effort to use appropriate, respectful language when speaking to and about women. Remind them of the importance of boosting female voices in and out of the workplace. 

5. Educate yourself on your rights.

Understanding what your rights are gives you the power to fight back against discrimination and harassment. If you have any uncertainty about your rights, reach out to resources who can help you. NOW NYC launched a sexual harassment legal clinic to help those who may be facing discrimination at work. 

"It's not an easy situation for us to easily deal with. The law is very specific and, unless you're an attorney, you really do need guidance on that," Ossorio. "Companies cannot be legally liable for sexual harassment unless they know that there's a problem." 

While the road to equality is still a long one, Ossorio is optimistic about the future.

"This all allows us to change the conversation, change the tenor. And with that comes real cultural change," Ossorio said. "It's easy to change laws, but to change the ways people behave and think is much harder. That gives me so much hope because we're actually in the midst of accomplishing that right now. Each and every one of us — together. Because we're all standing up and that's very, very special."  

A Plus is proud to have collaborated with New York City's National Organization for Women (NOW) —  the nation's largest organization working to advance women's rights — for this story. Learn more about NOW-NYC by visiting http://nownyc.org/.

Cover image via Tinxi / Shutterstock.com 

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