I am woman phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.
— Maya Angelou
This day was created to honor the women around the world who have pushed forward to make their situation better, many of them thinking of their families first in every moment of hardship. While most of us in America are reminded that women need to be paid equal wages, I am flooded with memories of West Africa, where I’ve never seen women work harder in my entire life. On the daily you will find mamas working in the fields early in the morning, only to start preparing dinner just afterward, which is an all-day process, from starting a fire on the outside marmite oven to pounding couscous and cleaning dishes, consisting of buckets of water on the ground. Water that can be used to prepare food or drink with, now that’s another struggle! Women and children in my village of Baré retrieved water from the local pump by filling large barrels and then carrying the barrel back home. At home, African women are responsible for cleaning the house, preparing food and assisting her children with homework in the evening (if there’s enough light available).
Furthermore, the women I knew and loved in Africa never complained of their hardships, but instead laughed a lot! The strength, endurance and love of several mamas inspired and uplifted me throughout my two years in Cameroon. All the while, knowing that their conditions could not offer women the same kinds of opportunities, such as the one I had that allowed me to be part of these women’s’ lives.
And I would not have these opportunities, had it not been for the many American ladies before me that paved the road I’m traveling. I’m thankful for the abundance of love I’ve received in my own endeavors to better my womanly self, and that includes a few really great men, too (I love you, Dad!). I’m just glancing back and thinking forward all at once… Look how far we’ve come! Woman, look at how far YOU’ve come! We still have more work to do! I really think we can take a page from my African mamas and remember that at the heart of it, this day means pushing forward for better opportunities, while still remembering to laugh together.
Happy International Women’s Day!
For a wonderful post on International Women’s Day in Cameroon this year, including some informational facts about women with disabilities, check out Rachel’s Field Notes!