Geena Davis, The Duchess of York, and Muslim Philanthropists Walk Into a Bar

Sure it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s actually the beginning of a beautiful partnership. And, perhaps, the most interesting night of that bartender’s life. That’s because American actress Geena Davis, Britain’s Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, and the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists have joined forces with a number of other celebrities and organizations to tackle the empowerment of women. They may be a motley crew, but one that promises to get the job done.

Team Davis-Duchess-Dogooders pointed out at the UN this week that a key part of empowering women around the world is ending violence against women, and especially sexual violence. They’ve asked for zero tolerance from the UN on the use of rape as a weapon of war, domestic violence, sex trafficking, honor killings, and female genital mutilation.

Separately, each of these players have been heavyweights on this issue. Geena Davis, famous for playing the first female president on the short-lived series Commander in Chief, founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and its programming arm, See Jane. Her efforts have been focused on reducing negative stereotyping of both men and women in the media. Sarah Ferguson has created the new Mother’s Army program in the UK, which is aimed educating and empowering mothers.

But perhaps the most exciting announcement can from Tariq Cheema, founder and chair of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists. He announced the launch of a brand new global initiative called “Empowerment Through Enlightenment,” which would focus on addressing violence against women and gender inequality from two sides: men and women. The project will focus on education and awareness about the issue for men, as well as skill-building opportunities to women. This sort of leadership on not only empowering women, but also educating men, coming from the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists is indicative of a growing commitment to this issue globally.

Lack of opportunities for women around the world is one of the reasons traffickers are able to exploit them more easily then their male counterparts. Gender inequality in sexual empowerment, education, institutions of marriage, and other parts of society may make women more vulnerable to human trafficking. Team Davis-Duchess-Dogooders understands that it’s crucial to address all these gender issues as they are — interconnected.

While an American film actress, a British noble, and a group of charity-focused Muslims might not seem like the most natural team, it is their incredible diversity which gives them power. If such different groups and people can all join together in the name of ending violence against women, sex trafficking, and gender-based discrimination, then we may truly have a shot of seeing the slavery of women end in our lifetimes.

But if this crowd ever does decide to go for a drink together somewhere, I sure hope they invite me.

Photo credit: Alan Light



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