I’ve felt deep, deep sadness this week for the 19 million women and girls across the earth in Afghanistan.
Eleven million women in America head back to college in the coming weeks and 144 women sit in our U.S. Capitol leading our country. Sadly, the women now ruled by the Taliban face a sudden and horrifying shift in their lives that we can’t fathom here.
When the Taliban ruthlessly ruled last, women were barely able to leave the house. They were forced into marriages, as young as 12, and had to give up any hope of having an education.
Brutal stories of beatings, rape, and beheadings for women who pushed back are haunting. Bibi Aisha had her ears and nose cut off for trying to escape her forced husband who abused her.
This wasn’t in some distant barbaric time; it was just 20 years ago there.
Twenty years ago, I was just a kid from Monument, who started from nothing launching my journey as an entrepreneur. I was also a single mom, raising a strong-willed young daughter to believe she could do whatever she put her mind to. I was excited, hopeful, and confident that I could create whatever life I desired. It was the promise of America. I felt blessed to be born in a country that afforded me all this possibility, all I had to do was put the work in.
I’ve spent the last couple years teaching young women exactly that through my work as a CU Regent, as the founder of SheFactor, and as the founder of the charity Moms Fight Back.
I can tell you most American women I spend time with sense that they are lucky to be born here, that it’s a gift. They have a sense of urgency to live life to the fullest, to “seize the day” in case we wake up and things aren’t so good anymore. We seem to understand better after this week how fragile our freedoms are, especially for women.
Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
The plight of women in Afghanistan this week is a horrifying reminder of this.
It also reminds us that decisions made by our politicians and bureaucrats have a direct, and sometimes huge, impact on us and our families.
So, what are we to do?
Well, I believe women have something unique to offer. We may not be among the brave soldiers on the front lines in the Middle East, but we are soldiers, nonetheless, fighting for our sisters across the globe, our children, their children. We are them. They are us. We have an unspoken promise to protect each other.
We have the most primal, fundamental, instinctual force on the earth. We have the unbreakable promise. The promise of a mother to her family. The unbreakable promise that says I will always stand up for you. The unbreakable promise that says I will go to the ends of the earth for you. That I will never stop fighting for you. That I will die for you. Period. No questions asked.
The unbreakable promise means we must act, now. We must use our voice, and our vote, to stand up for each other — and our children.
The unbreakable promise is an individual commitment of the highest order. It’s a truth bigger than any other a parent can have. Now just imagine what happens when we multiply this much force … this much intent ... this much purpose … by an army of women, all standing together, all taking on the toughest issues our kids face, and other women face — across the globe. Forcing transparency. Forcing accountability. Forcing action for our children’s future. Together.
If not now, when? If not us, then who? The women of Afghanistan were silenced this week, we can be their voice.
I watched mothers hand their babies over the barbed wire at the top of the walls to strangers on the other side, to give them a chance to escape the horrors they know await them. We can be the stranger on the other side of the wall.
Let’s start by speaking up loudly, together, for the women and children of Afghanistan. I’ve posted some ways for us to connect, and help, on my web site, www.heidiganahl.com
We can’t be silent, we must be their voice; they are all of us.
Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.