Last weekend was International Women’s Day.
It’s a cool day because it’s a celebration, a call to action, a recognition, and honestly, a pretty big party all over the globe. People call out great women who have done incredible things – and many women also gather together to discuss what can be done further into the future.
Here’s one of my favorite videos of a girl who’s out there doing a wonderful thing on her own accord: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT_O5xtEhsw
If nothing else, it’s a day for personal reflection, thinking about what it means to be a woman, and being proud of that.
Last year, right around this time, my girls were working closely with GirlHub Rwanda, a program sponsored by the Nike Foundation, to complete “consultations”. Their representatives came to our school, ran some activities, and interviewed the girls about their experiences and stories.
To celebrate Women’s Day last year, the Nike representatives had come for the first time, and filmed me teaching the girls lyrics to Alicia Key’s “Superwoman” song. You can be sure that for the rest of the school year, our club meetings were full of adolescent girls screaming “teacher! I am a superwoman!” I’m not kidding.
The Girl Hub team would came later and interview them about having a safe space at school for our GLOW club.
They would come again and ask them to declare what needed to be done to help girls’ in poverty. They wanted their ideas to put them on the agenda for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. I couldn’t stress it enough to the girls: y’all are a BIG deal!
And yet again, they would come another time and film them for the video they created to present to representatives of the United Nations.
In making decisions for my “next step” I try to close my eyes and imagine those girls in the room around me. It’s important for me to do that because I think it helps me stay anchored in finding exactly what I’ll be doing with my life. I imagine they are there, singing, sharing their ideas like they always did – and I ask myself, what continues to be their most pressing need?
If I’m guided by that question, then I am confident in any kind of decision I will make.
My women’s day celebration was quiet this year – work, running, dinner – but those girls, and many others, were on my mind. I keep them close in my heart and am proud of the work they have done – and will continue to do. International Women’s Day, like I noted, is certainly a time to appreciate the accomplishments of women. However, it’s an important time to also consider what’s left to be done and the many things that not only should be addressed but need to be addressed.
I’m still in constant contact with several of my girls and they are doing quite well. I really believe that a lot of our discussions in GLOW shifted their worldview just enough to see their own possibilities. And that’s amazing.
But perhaps what has been most difficult in coming back is knowing the reach of GLOW and our discussions, and yet realizing that ultimately, a lot of my girls are still “stuck” in an economically stagnant situation. That’s why I have been an avid supporter and advocate for their education. I believe it’s their chance – their access – to a life where all of their basic needs are met. I’m not looking to be their savior or be the one that rescues them. I’m really not. But, if I’m able to link them with opportunities – where it will be them having to make a case for themselves – then I’m happy to be that door.
Take Divine. Last we spoke, she was ranked #2 in her class, was chosen to represent her school when the bishop came to visit, and has started to take part in the school’s debate club. She’s pulling her weight, and she’s getting results.
Poverty is cruel and unfair and wrong. And unfortunately, women tend to take a huge brunt of that problem. I’ve been doing a lot of reading however, and there is reason to hope. In the world of microfinance, women are huge targets when it comes to finding reliable and strong borrowers; when you give a woman a loan she uses it well. She invests in her family, in food, and in outcomes that can provide sustainability to her family in the long run. Women tend to use their money to benefit a wide-range of people in the world of small-scale loans – and I think that’s where you can find a lot of hope and promise in consideration of many attempts to alleviate poverty. No answer is perfect, but some are better than others.
Below are a couple links related to Women’s Day; the first is a video that was released last year regarding the global development goals for women which Divine appears in, the second is how this video was made in which a lot of my girls show up in, and the last link is the findings report after the entire process of gathering girls’ ideas from more than 14 different countries and 500 different girls.