It goes without saying that this past year has been tough for all of us. But the reality is that it has been far tougher on some than others. The pandemic has revealed even more starkly than before the vast inequities that exist in our country and in the world. Essential workers, many of whom are women and people of color, have often had to choose between protecting their family’s health and maintaining financial stability.
In this time of upheaval, we have also witnessed amazing individuals boldly speaking out about their vision for a future with greater equity and justice. With the resurgence of #BlackLivesMatter, mass support for the United States Postal Service and essential workers, global climate strikes, and Indigenous #LandBack campaigns among many others, plus the growing recognition of how these movements are interrelated, we've seen the power of our collective voice.
If you're wondering how you can use your own voice for good this Valentine’s Day, we suggest joining One Billion Rising, a worldwide call to action seeking justice and gratitude for women’s labor and for the planet. This year's theme is Rising Gardens, which is all about combatting the effects of the global food and climate crisis on women worldwide. One Billion Rising reminds us that investing in growing our own food is important because gardens connect us to each other and to the Earth - as well as provide a valuable source of nourishment.
We're grateful to be at a point in history when the distinct and complex nature of women’s struggles are being heard and met with action. Here are 5 simple ways you can join others in your community and worldwide to make a difference on Valentine's Day and every day.
1. Join community efforts to grow food
Access to land and the ability to grow one’s own food has a long and troubled history around the world. Here in the U.S., we've been reminded this past year of how land ownership, and the wealth and autonomy that comes with it, has been shaped through slavery and the colonization of Indigenous lands. And after a particularly ravaging fire season, we've also had to confront the reality that the way we are currently caring for the land we live on isn’t sustainable.
One Billion Rising’s 2021 theme, Rising Gardens, points to the healing and transformation that can come from turning back to the Earth. If sustainability and women’s labor are issues that touch your heart, see what Black and Indigenous activists in your area are saying about the way we allocate and use resources. Consider looking for Black and Indigenous owned farms, co-ops, and organizations with a joint focus on climate and racial justice to support with your time and money.
2. Participate in local and virtual activism
People across the world this year showed us the positive impact we can create by working together to do good in our own communities. Countless impassioned individuals formed mutual aid networks to feed the vulnerable, help neighbors cover rent, provide first aid support at protests, and so much more.
It only takes one person to spark their community into compassionate action, and you can be that person! See what activists and organizations are already doing to address important issues in your community, and ask how you can support them. If there’s already a virtual One Billion Rising event taking place near you, see if you can volunteer to help make it happen. And if there isn’t, offer to organize it yourself! Organizations almost always need help, and getting involved comes with the added bonus of introducing you to new friends that share your values.
3. Show up for essential workers
It’s been a long year, even longer for those who have been at the front lines in grocery stores, hospitals, and delivery trucks balancing essential work and parenting responsibilities while the many others do their best to stay home and minimize spreading the virus. If we’ve learned nothing else from all of this heartache, it is the importance of these individuals and their labor that ties our economy together and makes our lives possible. We are thinking especially of women in these roles.
Never has the need been more clear for everyone to rise up in support of essential workers, especially those in lower-wage jobs, and demand they receive the dignity, compensation, and benefits befitting their contributions. If you are in a position to help, look for opportunities in your community to support local essential workers. A good place to get started would be to see if your community has an organization devoted to protecting workers’ rights that offers volunteer or donation opportunities.
4. Support local food banks
Everyone deserves to regularly experience a warm full belly and to know where their next meal is coming from, but that hasn’t been the case for many in our country this year. A uniquely heartbreaking effect of the pandemic that we’ve all been witness to this year is the rise of food insecurity for families and children. At Prosperity Candle, we are so grateful to have been able to donate over 82,000 meals to families in need due to your purchases and support.
But the need remains great. According to Feeding America, millions of people are newly experiencing food insecurity due to the pandemic, and the effects are being felt much more deeply by Black, Hispanic and Native American communities that were already more likely to rely on food assistance for survival. In the spirit of One Billion Rising’s 2021 Rising Gardens theme, do what you can to support BIPOC communities’ ongoing efforts to alleviate hunger locally through community gardening initiatives and donate to your local food banks.
5. Listen to women’s stories
There's incredible power in listening to someone's story first-hand. Working with the Burmese and Congolese women artisans in our studio, we are grateful to hear their stories of resilience and to know we’re providing them with stable employment and a living wage. One thing that we’ve come to understand more deeply is that, contrary to the belief that there are certain “women’s issues” that can monopolize women’s lives, there are a myriad of social, economic, and structural issues that women face and are passionate about.
Similarly, though One Billion Rising started as a campaign specifically focused on ending violence against women and girls, it has shifted over the years to reflect the complexity of women’s challenges across the world. We are grateful to be in a time where these intertwining challenges are being taken seriously and met with creative solutions from those most affected.