11 March 2013

Sunny Clifford: Advocate for Women

The Ms. Foundation for Women is celebrating Women’s History Month with a blog carnival featuring the voices and profiles of women across the country. This Month of Action is generously supported by our friends in Seattle. 

What do you do with your life? 

I graduated from Oglala Lakota College in June 2012 and worked at a tribal park on the Pine Ridge reservation for the summer season. I now work at a correctional facility full-time, while continuing to advocate for women’s rights.

How did you become interested in women’s rights/social justice? 

In 2006, the legislature attempted to ban all abortions in my home state of South Dakota. This led me to become aware of the blatant violations of women’s rights, like this one, that were occurring across the country.

Why and when did you decide to transform your interest into action? 

The first time I decided to take action was when I campaigned for the re-election of my tribal president, Cecelia Fire Thunder. Fire Thunder was the first person I heard speak up for women, not only Native Americans, but all women. It was important for me to campaign for her because I wanted to see changes on the reservation in terms of violence against women and access to abortion. In order to become witness to these changes, I realized I had to become personally involved in the battle.

Do you think your work can help make real change in the world? 

Yes. I think anyone has the capacity to change the world, no matter how small their action is or how many people see it.

Do you call yourself a feminist? Is the term still relevant today? 

I love to call myself a feminist, but I think it’s unfortunate that the term is relevant today because it proves women still do not have the rights necessary to be who they want to be.

Is the history of women’s rights important to you? Do you have a favorite figure from that past? 

The history of women’s rights has often left out Native women; nevertheless, every woman’s history is important to me. My favorite figures from the past are the unknown women who stood up for themselves and took control of their lives during periods of history when it was often dangerous to do so.

What do you like to do when you aren’t thinking about changing the world? 

I love food, so I love eating. Also, I love to read and there is hardly a time when I’m not thinking about what more I can do to make some changes in the world.

What’s the last good book you read? 

The Hunger Games.

What keeps you motivated to keep working for women’s rights/social justice? 

Ensuring positive change for our future generations so that we can all continue to improve the world.

What world would you like to see? 

I would like to see a world in which women choose who they want to be and how they want to live without restrictions or limitations. I would like to see women earning the same pay as their male counterparts. In terms of reproductive rights, it seems that we’re often fighting to not go back to the early 1970s, before Roe vs. Wade.

How long do you think it will take for us to get there? 

It will take us as long as it takes everyone to become aware of the importance of these issues and recognize that they are worth changing.

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