On March 8, the world will celebrate International Women’s Day to honor the various achievements of women everywhere. While we still have a long way to go until women are considered full and equal partners, progress is being made, one woman at a time. Next week we will share with you just a few of the inspiring stories of the many women who grace our projects around the world.
By Dan Pearson, international programs
I was in India for six months working with one of CFCAís projects, and I joined a gym while I was here. It was a small gym, but I really enjoyed going there. One morning at the gym I was silently congratulating myself for increasing the weight on one of my exercises when, precisely at that moment, something outside the window caught my eye. I noticed a small woman, probably weighing about 100 pounds, walking down the street. She was balancing a bundle on her head that was about four feet wide, four feet long, and three feet tall. In her arms she was carrying her child. And there was a plastic chair tied to the top of the bundle on her head. And it was raining outside. Suddenly the incremental weight increase on my exercise didnít seem so impressive.
Seeing that woman reminded me of a similar experience I had many years ago in Haiti. I was helping build a medical clinic in the mountains, and since I had no real building skills I was given the job of bringing water to mix the concrete. The crew leader handed me a 5-gallon bucket and told me to follow a trail down, down, down the mountain to the river. I filled my bucket in the river and began the long walk up the steep mud trail. It was pretty hard work, but I was in my early 20s and in pretty good shape at the time. I stumbled a few times, and each time I stumbled some water spilled out of the bucket. After several stumbles, the job became more manageable. All in all, I felt like I was doing pretty well until someone†passed me on the trail moving very quickly. I barely caught a glimpse of her as she passed by. In just a few seconds she was out of view ahead of me. She was a girl about 11 or 12 years old. She was also carrying a 5-gallon bucket of water. Hers was still full.
The difference between strength and power
CFCA seeks to empower women, particularly the mothers of sponsored children. Sometimes that word ëempowermentí is misunderstood, creating the image of weak and helpless women. But thereís a big difference between strength and power. The mothers of sponsored children in India have no shortage of strength. And the same goes for the mothers of sponsored children in the other countries where CFCA works.
The strongest people on Earth
I have visited many places and met a lot of people all around the world, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the strongest people anywhere on Earth are the mothers who live in the poorest communities in the world. They are mentally strong, emotionally strong, spiritually strong and, yes, physically strong. Tens of millions of mothers who live in the desperate corners of the planet get up each and every day regardless of how they feel and in spite of the overwhelming and unjust obstacles they face, and they do whatever it takes to give their kids life and a little hope for something better. Each of those women has a strength I canít even understand.
What they often lack is power. Power doesnít always have a lot to do with how strong you are. Power is about living in a society and an economy that allow you to fully use your strength. If you have power, you can use your strength how you see fit. If you donít have power, you are only allowed to use your strength to do the things that no one else wants to do (like carrying buckets of water up a mountain).
When CFCA talks about empowering the mothers of sponsored children, we do so with deep respect for the strength these women already demonstrate every day. All weíre doing is looking for ways to support their efforts to create for themselves a little more space, a little more power, so they can more fully use their strength. They deserve at least that much.