Possibility and Promise

March 8, 2013. International Day of the Woman. A day set aside to celebrate...me. As well as my sisters, the women of the world. We celebrated the daughters, the mothers, the aunts, the grandmothers. We celebrated those that hold half the sky.

But as we celebrated by sharing tweets and Facebook posts, memes and memories, shout outs and songs, we also celebrated with a heavy heart. Because only some of us had the freedom to celebrate. Only some of us actually knew that there is a day set aside for celebrate. Only some of us are given enough love, care, respect, and education to feel strong enough to hold half the sky.

So today, as I think about what it means to be a woman in today's world, I can only frame my answer in this context; "what does it mean for her?":

i carry her heart in my heart
To be her means not worrying about getting an education. In fact, many, if not all, of the adults in her life and in her community, have healthy dialogues and discussions about what her educational experience should look like. They endlessly discuss:
  • Should she use an iPad or smart phone instead of textbooks? 
  • Should she be in gifted classes or be with her peers but have some accelerated learning? 
  • Should she have access to a salad bar at school? 
to name just a few. In fact, my twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with groups celebrating all the educational advances and opportunities she and her peers (for the most part) have. But girls her age in many other countries and cultures don't even have access to school, much less have a community which even considers these as topics of debates. Because girls don't go to school. Period. We know that girls are marginalized, mistreated, and viewed as second class citizens, if they are viewed at all. And these neglected and often abused girls, grow up to be women, who often become mothers at an incredibly young age, who raise their daughter's in a world that sees little if any value in them.

My daughter? My daughter wants to grow up to be the President of the United States. Or an artist. Or a writer. Or...any number of options which change depending on her mood. And she is valued and encouraged to strive to reach any goal she sees in her future.

I was fortunate to be able to attend an event where Riffat Hassan was a keynote and speaking about how she was a professor by profession but an activist by choice. As she reflected upon her time as a young girl growing up in Pakistan and spoke also about a culture which believes that girls and women should not receive an education (citing the recent shooting of student activist Malala Yousafzai), she also spoke about hope that through training opportunities for women (which are growing in popularity) and the continued, collective of advocates who speak out for these women (since they have no voice of their own), will help create laws will which might actually have greater value and weight.

She posed a rhetorical question at the end of her keynote, which definitely resonated with many in the audience: "What is my responsibility?"

Because here I am, in a place where

  • women's rights, while often debated, are most definitely secure;
  • I have access to health care and medical treatment, for any ailment, real or imagined;
  • I can write a blog voicing my opinion on any subject matter I wish, without fear of physical harm or arrest (and yes, I understand that some subject matter might create that vortex, but typically I, like so many other women, can speak our truths);
  • I can run for office, debate about the merits of the candidates running for office, vote, or choose not to vote. 

Because I am a daughter, a mother, a sister, an aunt.

Because I am a woman, I have a responsibility.

And here it is, the Monday after International Women's Day, and much like what occurred after International Day of the Girl...some of us have moved on to the next cause or issue. But to me, all the issues are connected.

It isn't just about my daughter, it's about my sons as well. It's about supporting causes we believe in, and advocating for them (we can do this by writing a blog, sharing information about the UN Foundation Global Mom Relay, where, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Johnson & Johnson, for each link to a post, $5 will be donated to one of four initiatives that are helping women and children lead healthy and happy lives-Girl Up, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), and the cause closest to my heart, Shot@Life). It's about stepping out for them when you step out (you can do this by downloading the Charity Miles app. For every mile you walk, run, or bike, a donation is made to a cause you support, and there are several to choose from). It's about playing an online game via Half the Sky which helps support a variety of initiatives. It's about supporting RESULTS and their efforts to eliminate TB and help families struggling with poverty. It's about attending a screening of 10x10act's film "Girls Rising."

It's about doing all that, and then even more. Because we advocating for a cause when there is no applause.

Finally, it's about knowing that every child, every where, deserves the very best we adults have to give. Because all the girls of the world should be able to turn their childhood dreams into adult realities. To have possibility be a promise made and kept.

Because we carry their hearts in our heart. 

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