The winds of social change have been trending towards the quick, innovative fix nowadays. This oftentimes takes the form of a new technology that is developed in the West and applied elsewhere and may or may not involve the Internet. These types of solutions are incredibly valuable, but sometimes innovation takes another form. In fact, oftentimes being the first of something means that a period of discontent and disruption must come first. Sometimes, being the first just means leveling the playing field or righting some wrongs. Being the first of a kind may not always be glamorous, but it does tend to be life-changing.
The stories in this collection study the phenomenon of being original through the lenses of gender equity, and they take place in two seemingly disparate places in the world: India and Chicago. Yes, one is a country and one is a city, but both offer insight into how two opposite environments approach empowering women through innovation. The first story takes place in Jaipur, India and focuses on how the first all-female police unit has transformed women’s sense of autonomy to report crimes and feel as if their safety is being taken seriously. The next story shifts to Chicago, Illinois where the first female refugee and immigrant sewing/clothing production line is offering women the chance to use the talents from their previous lives to make a new living. Back in Gujarat, India, the first female-run train station blows all the other stations out of the water with their efficiency, cleanliness, safety, and economic value. Lastly, in Chicago again, a woman-centered mosque is the first of its kind to make their services accessible to all genders, sexualities, abilities, classes, etc., and as such cultivates a spiritual community amongst those who may have been previously excluded.
The success in India can be attributed to women actively eliminating barriers and establishing new social norms, and the success in Chicago hands control back to those being served and focuses on their assets rather than treating them as victims. Innovation takes many forms in many different places but all shares the unique ability to inspire hope in people to envision new futures for themselves.
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