by Sher Orpen

I told a friend the other day about this group that I’m involved with, this Indivisible Women Tarrant County group. When I mentioned that one of our goals was encouraging collaboration, he questioned how this could be. Haven’t we already excluded half the population, he asked, if we have only “Women” in our name? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

While not the first to use the phrase, when Hillary Clinton asserted at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 that “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights,” she uttered a powerful truth. Creating an environment (social and political) where the rights of all citizens are considered equal is good for a country’s economy, health, and stability.

When any social group is marginalized, for whatever reason, the overall environment in a country is stultified, stability is endangered, and the economy is hindered. Whether it’s the caste system in India, the women-must-have-a-man-as-a-guardian system in Saudi Arabia, or the institutionalization of racism in the United States, those who are marginalized cannot contribute fully to a society’s well being. In many cases, the system that marginalizes them must expend resources to maintain that marginalization.

In contrast, when citizens are given equal opportunities to advance, they end up contributing their skills and talents to their societies. They help grow businesses and therefore the economy. They contribute to the artistic, social, and political life of their societies.

Thus, “women’s rights are human rights” makes perfect sense to me. The first doesn’t exclude, but includes the second. And in the same vein, “Black Lives Matter” because in fact All Lives Matter. One doesn’t exclude the other. The former in each case just brings light to a sub-set of the latter because that’s where light is most needed at the moment.

I realize I’m expressing a world view here and not providing a lot of research to back it up. I know that research exists, though, because my worldview has been shaped partly by being exposed to studies and articles (factual, in fact) that show it. But I’m not feeling the necessity to document here. I just wanted to add my voice to the idea that we don’t have anything to fear from welcoming those who are “not like us” into our country and society. We don’t have anything to gain by keeping any group down. Welcoming and encouraging doesn’t shrink the pie; it grows it.

Inclusion is good for everyone. How to get beyond the institutionalized exclusion is tough; I’m not denying that. But it seems to me the first step is to stop being so afraid of losing something, or that someone else is going to take what’s yours. Getting to know individuals is a great way to build trust and tear down those barriers of fear because that’s when we begin to learn we’re really all in the same boat and can help each other. Thus, collaboration is important, and is one of the goals of this group.

Thanks for reading.