This is the year of women. In the United States, women are running for president from both political parties. Around the world, women are meeting global challenges, changing countries and changing lives. Yes, there are major hurdles for women and girls, but now is the time to celebrate women and recommit to a few basic principles. As we approach this week's celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Fourth U.N. Conference on Women held in Beijing, let's pause to applaud women and girls and remember:

  1. Women matter.
  2. Female role models make a key difference.
  3. Women and girls need to have their voices heard loudly and clearly.

How do you celebrate women? It starts with a single step. Through the power of film and stories, we can change lives if we find media focused on women and lift those stories up.

Voice of America, for example — an international news organization that broadcasts to audience of 170 million people weekly in 45 languages around the world — is taking a single step with its upcoming documentary, "A Single Step" (produced with Vital Voices, a nonprofit organization training and empowering women, and the Asia Broadcasting Union) which will reach people via television, radio and the Web. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Sally Field, the film takes you from women's radio in the Pacific Rim to maternal health in India, from girls' education in Liberia to environmentalism in China and social entrepreneurship in Japan. The film focuses on women who have made it their clarion call to challenge the status quo and motivate other women to participate in human rights, health, politics, climate change, civil society, the economy and global leadership.


We must tell stories about women — like Katie Meyler, who went to Liberia on a whim and ended up founding the first all-girls tuition-free school for underprivileged students. In August 2014, Meyler learned that her Liberian neighborhood was hit with Ebola and found herself fighting on the frontlines.

We must celebrate Peggy Liu, an environmentalist whose organization, the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE), is both helping the world to understand China better and create a more environmentally conscious China. She is considered a leading voice in the environmental movement today.

We need to applaud Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, a Fiji native, who created a program called "Suitcase Radio," a unique way to empower women in rural areas. "Suitcase Radio" provides a platform for women and girls to raise issues that they otherwise could not. In June 2005, she was included in the list of Pacific women in the 1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 initiative.

We should talk about Dr. Sachiko Kuno, who grew up in the 1960s Japan where the expectation was for women to be subordinate to men. Her determination and love for science helped her to defy the odds. Kuno moved to the U.S. in 1995 and established a multimillion-dollar pharmaceutical business and a residence program for social entrepreneurs in Washington to help young people looking to create positive change in our world.

And we can pay tribute to Dr. Aparna Hegde, who is working to change the statistic that India accounts for the largest number of maternal deaths in the world. She has created a unique infrastructure using mobile phones to deliver timed and targeted information to thousands of pregnant women in poor, urban areas of Mumbai. Her organization, ARMMAN, aims to enroll 1 million women in India over the next three years, in a country where hundreds of thousands of infants and young mothers die because of lack of proper information.

One voice can make all the difference, but what unites women in these stories is the fact that they all share one impulse: to shape bold ideas into bold action. These women are visionaries, creators of change and drivers of hope.

Sonenshine is a former under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. Kelu Chao is acting director of Voice of America.