My mother was born in India, the youngest of six girls. Being the baby of the family, she had to stand up for herself. She learned to find a voice amidst a din of older sisters, fend off cruel taunts from boys at school, and stick to her guns, even when it took her away from her family and homeland.
That sense of determination is one of my mother’s greatest gifts to me, so it came as no surprise to her that after law school, I decided to move to D.C. to work on domestic violence issues at a women’s rights organization.
The day I left home, after she dried her tears and tucked me into my car, she took my face in her hands and said, “You help those women, ok? You stand up for them.”
Today, as part of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, I work to ensure that all Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women are able to access the full breadth of rights and protections to which they are entitled.
I stand up for nail salon workers, 42% of whom are AAPI, so they don’t have to face prolonged exposure to chemicals in environments with poor ventilation.
And for Limited English Proficient women so that those who seek domestic violence services are not turned away from the police, shelters, or counseling services because there are no interpreters who speak Asian languages.
And for culturally and linguistically appropriate health care so that AAPI women, many of whom face cervical cancer rates higher than that of the general population can enjoy longer, healthier lives.
And for women who have been trafficked into the Unites States, the majority of whom are AAPI, so that they are free to live lives of their choosing.
One hundred years ago, fed up with women’s inability to vote, hold public office, and work free from discrimination, more than one million women and men took to the streets to demand women’s equal access to political, economic and social life, giving birth to International Women’s Day.
In the spirit of my mother’s simple, powerful words, let’s commemorate this milestone by honoring that history, and stand up against injustice and for one another.
Amanda Baran is Senior Advisor on Civil Rights in the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.