the strength of a woman

I’ve learned to not question things.

It’s easy with things like bus rides. Where maybe you have to switch routes three times but usually if you’re patient, you’ll get there. Or food; “this tastes good but I definitely don’t want to know what is in it” is something I have said maybe a little too often.

But sometimes it gets much harder to not questions things. As a white feminist from the western world, I want to point out the systematic sexism crippling so many societies. In Myanmar, women aren’t allowed to touch many of the most religious rights. In Vietnam, men choose their wives often through a kidnapping process. In Morocco it is rare to see a woman wandering the streets, particularly in the smaller towns.

Parts of me want to question everything I see. I want to point out that maintaining discrimination at a UNESCO World Heritage site in Kampala because “That is the way it has always been” is still discrimination even if it’s in the name of history. I want to argue with the men who tell me that women from their country would never be able to travel at 19 because at 19 they are still young girls that maybe they would be able to travel if you gave them the freedom to do so.

Yet, I have learned to accept this. After all, I am not an imperialist or missionary; I am a visitor to a foreign land and who am I to tell someone what is right and what is wrong? But there is one thing that I cannot accept, and that is the lack of credit that women everywhere are given. Women are the strongest; carrying half their body weight on their head, raising a dozen kids alone, straining themselves in the kitchen all day, and often still earning the family income. And yet, they are silenced. Nowhere in the world is a woman given the credit that she deserves.

In Myanmar, I noticed the strength of a woman as she is the one praying hardest at the sites she cannot touch, while the men are inside, taking selfies. In Vietnam, a woman marries a man she does not love and farms the rice and leads trekking groups of tourists throughout the hills while the man does nothing but call her lazy. In Morocco, she is taken for granted and not given an education or a new pair of socks but she continues to do everything the man does not want to.

Right now, I am in Uganda volunteering with the organization Katosi Inter-Community Development Alliance. In Katosi, which is a fishing village beaten down by HIV/AIDS and poverty, it is almost impossible for an unskilled woman to find a safe way to earn money, whereas men can easily find unskilled labor. For the past few weeks, I have been talking with women who have participated in KIDA’s skills development program, which trains women without skills or an education for free. They are trained in the areas of tailoring or hairdressing, so that they can start their own businesses and provide for themselves.

There was Susan, who continued her education after graduating and is getting a degree from university in fashion and design. Simultaneously, she is maintaining her own tailoring business to support her widowed mother, siblings and herself, and also training other girls from her village so they can make their own money, too.

Becca, whose husband left her and their 3 kids when she went to get an education because he wanted a woman who stays home doing nothing. Now, she works her business all day without complaint and with what little money she makes is able to provide for her kids and herself to live.

The teacher at the program, who voluntarily spends all her days at the program to teach the girls and give back to her community. She does so without asking for anything in return.

And the girls currently enrolled, with big dreams for the future. Who came to KIDA from a variety of backgrounds, but all share a silent determination to make life better. One has a baby and comes to school every day with an extra pair of clothes and the motherly desire to learn in order to be able to be able to graduate and give her daughter a future she deserves.

Women do crazy things. Impossible things. All without asking for or realizing the credit that they deserve. Today, thank a woman that you know. She is probably overworked and underappreciated. And thank women across the globe who have probably never been thanked before, in spite of everything that they do. Women deserve the world, and that is something that I never question for a second.

 

p.s. if you want to check out more of what KIDA is about, their website is http://katosi-community.org/ (although it is still under construction!) and right now we are running a campaign for the skills development program it would be great if you checked that out at https://www.gofundme.com/skills-development-project

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