Honouring African WomenThis post is in honour of International Women's Day (March 8). Sokari and Mshairi had a great idea to have African women bloggers pay tribute to the African women who have been important to them. They will be doing a round-up of all the tributes on Global Voices Online sometime in the coming week.
In my life, I feel that I have been touched by so many great, wise and wonderful women -- from my mother, other family, women I've worked with and many great friends -- so it is very hard for me to pick just one woman to pay tribute to. For that reason, I decided not to select just one woman, but to celebrate ALL the women who have been significant in my life. I mean, I won't be writing about all of them here of course - I would be here until the next Women's Day. Instead, I am going to write about several women who have taught me a lot.
My mother obviously has been very important to me. She was my very first role model for what a woman (mother, wife, sister and friend) should be. Inspite of our differences of opinion on a variety of subjects, I have learnt so much from her and think that she will continue to be one of the most influential role models I have. She is an engineer (still a fairly rare job for a woman), a leader of (many) men, an entrepreneur, an amazing mother, who despite her frenetic schedule still manages to keep up with the minutiae of her family's life. While I really do not want to work the 'double shift', like she has done, in my future family life, she gives me great hope that with good managerial skills and lots of faith, anything is possible.
A Kenyan lady I worked with in Boston for a couple of years (I will call her Lady P) showed me a different life for an African woman than I was accustomed to. She lost her husband some years after they were married and was given the 'choice' to marry her late husband's brother or forfeit all her posessions (this included the home and farm she shared with her husband). She decided not to re-marry and was left to raise her 3 boys on her own. Her graduate education had been interrupted by her decision to get married, but she held on to her dream of completing her Master's program someday. This she did! When I met her, she had not only completed her Master's, but was nearing the end of her PhD. She eventually graduated when she about 58. I have not been in touch with Lady P for some years now, but I will always remember how she choose to make her own way in life and not follow the path already laid out for her by others.
Another woman who has blazed her own path in life is my best friend, Y. She has made some tough and difficult choices in life that I'm not sure that I would have been able to. But she serves as an inpiration for living life by your own rules. As an eldest child, I have the tendency to think about other people's needs a bit more than mine sometimes. I also tend to worry about being a 'good' role model. I'm trying to leave those anxieties behind and Y shows me how you CAN make good life choices, which also make you happy.
My sister is another woman I hold in great esteem and who has, and continues to teach me, many great lessons. She is unflinchingly honest and blunt with her opinions and advice. She is someone I can always count on to tell me the hard, cold and unpleasant truths that no one else will. At the same time, she dispenses her compliments with an equal measure of frankness. From her, I'm learning to be more upfront with my feelings: If I like it, I like it. If I don't, I will (try) not to make any bones about it.
I feel that I have been truly, truly blessed to have so many incredible women who have inspired me to be and to want to be more than I am. Now, I feel that it is my duty and responsibility to share some of what I'm learning with the other women in my life. Hopefully, this tribute is a start.