Natalie Lynn Rekstad writes about Gretchen Ki Steidle's passion for mindfulness, women's empowerment and peace-building in East Africa.
The most pressing concern for Seraphine Hacimana and a group of women in her Rwandan village was ending the sexual exploitation of disabled women who could not easily collect clean water near their home on their own. When they solved that problem with the help of Global Grassroots, a non-profit organization that University of Virginia alumna Gretchen Steidle created 12 years ago, it had a ripple effect that has helped with several other important community issues and spread to more villages in the area.
Sometimes defining moments come around. And they are undeniable. Right now, in the US, the land of my birth, a defining moment around women and girls is happening. It extends so far beyond a political campaign, an election, it extends into what the moral fiber of our nation, what our national identity will be surrounding treatment of women and girls moving forward.
Imagine walking for miles each day to bring water to your family for cooking and drinking, water that is not even clean, but it is all that is available. Now imagine that you are physically unable to do this, too poor to pay for someone to help bring it, possibly forced to trade sex for this water for your family. In parts of Rwanda, where the Portsmouth-based non-governmental organization Global Grassroots operates, this was many women’s reality.
Gretchen Steidle Wallace is the Founder and President of Global Grassroots Conscious Social Change for Women, an international organization working at the intersection of personal and societal transformation to catalyze the ideas of grassroots change agents working for women’s rights and well-being post-conflict. In 2007, Gretchen was honored by World Business Magazine and Shell as one of the top International 35 Women Under 35.