I was YouTube surfing the other day. I’m not sure what I was looking for…just looking. In the midst of the plethora of films on offer, I came across two that made me think about what it takes to make a difference. So, in acknowledgement that March is Women’s History Month in the United States and Europe, (in Canada and India, we reserve October for this acknowledgement), I offer two stories of women who found and exercised their considerable courage and used it to fight for something they believed in.
The first story illustrates The Power of Many, of bringing people together to create something that would likely not have happened otherwise. It is a story about women who built a daunting solidarity fused by a common purpose. That purpose was to end civil war in Liberia and create a safe place for children to live and grow.
It began with six women, Leymah Gbowee, Etweda “Sugars” Cooper, Vaiba Flomo, Asatu Bah Kenneth, Etty Weah and Janet Johnson Bryant. Together, these women created a groundswell of support for their cause until there were thousands of women working together in protest against a bloody and merciless civil war that spilled the blood of countless innocents.
Here is the short trailer to the movie, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, made about this tremendous accomplishment:
These very brave and very determined women showed the world how to make change and bring about peace through peaceful means even in the face Charles Taylor’s brutal regime.
The second story illustrates the Power of One. This is the story of Violette Szabo, a young woman who went from selling perfume at the Bon Marche in London to serving as an agent in Britain’s Secret Operations Executive (SOE) during WWII. During her initial training, the instructors were reportedly concerned about her ability to carry out her mission suggesting that she had no initiative and needed constant guidance. But, Violette was to prove her worth a hundredfold. Parachuting into France in 1944 with the goal of determining the status of the Resistance there, she successfully completed her mission and returned to embark on another.
She could have chosen another, safer path. She could have stayed in England to raise her small daughter, Tanya. But, she must have seen a greater purpose for her life and a greater way to secure her daughter’s future. Ultimately, she was shot in front of a firing squad at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany at the age of twenty-three.
Violette Szabo was posthumously awarded Britain’s George Cross and France’s Croix du Guerre, for bravery. In 1958, a movie was made of her life entitled Carve Her Name With Pride. Here is a clip:
So, what, you may ask is the bottom line here? Well, this is what comes up for me.
- Leadership does not always show itself in expected places
- We all have what it takes to be a leader in something and it’s usually something about which we are impassioned.
- Leadership and courage are inextricably linked.
- We find our strength when we most need it.
- Whether we are one or many, it is possible to make a difference.
What do you think? What would you add? What do these stories say to you?