Women, Minorities Focus of August Observances

In addition to “Dog Days,” “National Ice Cream Sandwich Week,” and other light-hearted designations, August features more serious observances, including reminders, a recognition, and a religious celebration.

The first week of August is National Minority Donor Awareness Week, designed to bring attention to the urgent need for organ donation from people of color. Started in 1996, it is also an opportunity to thank minority donors and their families for their selfless contributions to help others. Today, Black, Hispanic, American Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans make up more than half (57%) of people on transplant waiting lists in America, yet only 30% of all available organs come from minorities. That discrepancy can mean the difference between life and death: Transplants are significantly more successful if donor and recipient share the same ethnic background. Given the toll of chronic conditions in the multicultural population, the greatest need is for kidneys, hearts, pancreas, and livers. Learn more and read patient stories here; you can also register here to become an organ, eye, or tissue donor.

The International Day of Indigenous People, established by the United Nations in 1994, is celebrated on August 9.  The observation aims to raise awareness of indigenous populations around the world and the necessity of protecting their often-at-risk human rights. Examples of such people include the Lakota in the U.S., Aborigines in Australia, and the Inuit and Aleutians in the Arctic region. The day also recognizes the resilience and contributions of indigenous people as keepers of traditional knowledge and language, and as stewards of the natural environment. This year’s theme, “The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge,” focuses on women who serve as “breadwinners, caretakers, knowledge keepers, leaders, and human rights defenders.” Despite their important roles in their communities, indigenous women often suffer from discrimination on the basis of gender, class, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. For examples of activities, you can do to celebrate the day, click here.   

Women’s Equality Day is celebrated in the United States every August 26 to mark the date women gained the right to vote. Established by Congress in 1973,the observance recognizes the certification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The document was signed privately in the home of the Secretary of State early in the morning, prompting the New York Times to note “the lack of fanfare for the historic event.” The journey leading to the amendment’s passage began in 1848, following the world’s first women’s rights convention in New York—and the start of a more than 70-year-long civil rights movement. However, the achievement was not enjoyed by all:  Poll taxes, local laws, and other restrictions blocked many women of color from voting. It would take another 45 years and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to correct that wrong. To learn more about the history of the women’s suffrage movement and passage of the 19th Amendment, click here.

The birth of the god Lord Ganesh is celebrated by Hindus across the world on August 31.  Considered an important festival, this “grand” celebration lasts ten days. Due to its significance, preparation for this festival begins a month in advance in India. Participants decorate streets, and artists build giant statues of the elephant-headed god. Ganesh is considered the god of “new beginnings and a fresh start.” Ganesh is also the most important god to worship at Hindu festivals. This festival ends with submerging the idols of Ganesh in any body of water to say good-bye—so thousands gather on beaches for this ritual. To learn more fascinating details of this festival and about Ganesh, click here

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