21 Leaders Gala Honors Those Building New Worlds

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Rita Henley Jensen

(WOMENSENEWS)–This week is of the most anxious and most hopeful for those of us here: Our third-annual 21 Leaders for the 21st Century is tomorrow night and its success is fundamental to the future of our independent news service.

We have sold many more tickets and tables this year than last and, as I write this, many of the 21 leaders selected by our readers are onplanes–heading toward Manhattan to join us andbe recognized for making news by working for women.

The event not only provides us an opportunity to demonstrate to a live audience exactly what we are about, but it also tells us that others–many others–see a need for Women’s eNews and are willing to support it.

As we endure the last minute worries of hosting a large event, we are keenly aware we are doing so with a backdrop of events in Iraq and in Washington. These days, few of us can pick up the newspaper or tune into a news broadcast without a sense of deep foreboding–what next? As the horrors of the Iraq war continue to dominate the news–and the questions in the political polls and output of political commentators–I, as many of us do, feel an enormous sense of sadness.

We Will Stay Vigilant

Yet I do not despair. The news that Women’s eNews delivers is of a different sort. It provides coverage not only about women in the midst of this intense violence, but also of the consistent, continual and global efforts of women to make their world a place of gender equity. In so doing these women believe they are creating a world with significantly less violence and significantly more effective civil societies–if for no other reason than they are more representative.

Recently, I found myself standing next to a retired federal judge as he was chatting with a former law partner. The judge asked his former colleague what he had been doing now that he too had retired. The law partner replied that he was active in a pro-choice Republican organization.

“Oh good for you,” said the judge. “I am Republican too,” he confessed, “and I think the party is making a mistake on choice. I think they are really hurting the party. I don’t know what we can do about it, though, except try to keep it quiet. Yes, that’s it; just try to keep it quiet.”

I couldn’t help myself and jumped in: “Sir, my job is to make sure every person eligible to vote in the United States knows exactly what the Republican Party is doing on the issue of choice.”

At that moment, I was so full of pride and gratitude to all those who support Women’s eNews, and forward our e-mail and post our stories on a choice as well as a host of other issues. And I felt all our readers, staff, writers and supporters were with me at the moment, all standing there saying to a federal judge we were not going to keep quiet about what is going on with women’s freedoms.

The next day, I received a fund-raising letter from the likely Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry at my home address. The letter did not mention a specific women’s issue until the middle of page two. If pro-choice John Kerry is elected, we know we will have to be just as vigilant, just as on top of events. We will have to watch for federal funds to fight domestic violence, increased safety for women in the military, equal economic and educational opportunity and female appointees to the top jobs and the federal bench–just to name a few.

Regardless of who is in power, our mission will be the same–to be the definitive source of substantive news–unavailable anywhere else–covering issues of particular concern to women and providing women’s perspectives on current public policy.

Headlines Read Around the World

Through Women’s eNews, women’s voices, their views and their values are sent to more than 2 million readers each month via e-mail, to more than 13,000 media outlets via our weekly press releases and to more than 120 nations, via our e-mail and Web sites (Women’s eNews is now available in Arabic, as well).

And all our contributors are part of that news gathering and distribution process: regardless of whether they are writers filing their stories on deadline from a war zone, experts who have taken the time to answer our reporters’ questions, readers who send us along to others or donors who have made a financial contribution.

All should smile when they log on in the morning and see waiting in their inbox or on our Web site a Women’s eNews headline about an issue they truly care about. All should smile again and say to themselves: “I made that happen. And I made it happen in such a way that millions of other women and those who care about women will receive the same information–and the same links to Web sites where even more information is available.”

And none of our contributors should keep quiet about Women’s eNews. Please, forward the story to a list of e-mail buddies or professional listserv, ask the members of local organization to subscribe and stay informed, write a letter to the editor of daily newspaper or a favorite Web site with the story attached and ask: “Why didn’t I read about this issue in your publication?”

Covering the Worlds Women Are Building

And know too, by Women’s eNews delivering every day, women can more easily become aware when their hard-won gains are at stake, create communities of interest around these issues and use a news story to inform public officials and others in power of their concerns.

The Women’s eNews 21 Leaders demonstrate the wide range of the news made by women doing just that. They also embody the breadth and depth of women’s leadership worldwide–from Pakistan to Iran and Rwanda to Afghanistan, from New York to San Francisco, from Wall Street trading floors to the union halls, from the world of philanthropy to the inner sanctums of religion, from global business networking initiatives to invitation-only fairs for venture capitalists, from research and advocacy producing startling insights into the views of women and to forcefully moving the agenda for women of color.

Women’s eNews is covering the future these women are creating–part of a worldwide movement that is changing everything: From how many children a family will have; to who fights the wars, inherits property, goes to school, provides medical care, invests capital, leads prayers, controls the money and makes and interprets the laws.

This is the Women’s eNews beat. We are thrilled to be the news service that covers and is part of this new world in the making.

Rita Henley Jensen is founder and editor in chief of Women’s eNews.

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