Walking with Women – Resilience

Walking with Women – Resilience

1/25/17

A few days ago, women around the world marched for their rights, for themselves and their sisters, no matter where in the world they are. In solidarity.  While I couldn’t take part in the march physically because I was nowhere near a march site that day, I did get a chance to reflect on our Femmolution (a term I borrow from my friend Liz Kilili).  My mind went back to 2011, the drought crisis in the Horn of Africa that was compounded by intensified conflict, and I remembered Shukri, a Somali refugee at the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya.

Shukri’s day starts at 5am. She walks straight to the market to open the shop – this takes half an hour. During food distribution days, she walks another half hour from the shop to the distribution centre and back to the market. She must also walk to collect her daily rations of firewood and water. In a typical day, Shukri will walk about 7 hours, carrying loads of food, firewood and water by herself. Shukri came to the Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya as a refugee in May 2008. While living in Somalia, she suffered through the murder of her husband and a horrible attack which left her both mentally and physically traumatized.  Despite all the challenges in her life, Shukri was always smiling, always happy, and always defiant. One day, I went to visit her and she had written on her arms, I am Powerful.

In my time with CARE I have seen Shukri over and over again, in the faces women we work with, whether it is Kenya or Jordan. While we often see it as rhetoric, we can see evidence that if we invest in women and girls, they in turn will push the development of their families. I then think about CARE’s Village Savings and Loans project and remember Asli, a Borana woman in Northern Kenya. Asli was married off when she was young. Her husband was a drunkard. She started participating in the Village Savings and Loans program that CARE had brought to her community. Within a year, Asli was making  more money than most men in her village – with her loan she was able to start a vegetable business. In a community where divorced women are ostracized, Asli became the heroine, and even used her own home that she had built with her own hands for community elder meetings. All these women have one thing in common – they are all so resilient!

Women do hold up half the sky.  These women have shown me that they can change their worlds. In today’s world, more than ever, we need hope and resilience, and women represent just that. We don’t have to go so far - in our own communities, we can start by sharing the stories of women who are daring to do things different, who are working with their communities – on a flight with all crew (including pilots) being women? Make some celebratory noise about it! Show girls it’s totally ok to dream about being a mechanic! If we dare to tell the stories, then our leaders will be compelled to listen too. We have just touched the tip of the iceberg – these are great stories and great achievements, but let’s reach below the surface together!

Reshma Khan

Change Project and Communications Coordinator

East, Central and Southern Africa

CARE USA

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