Ordinary Women of the World: Our Unsung Heroines

In honor of Fahmia Alfoith

This 2016 International Women’s Month finds our half the sky, half full and half empty. But today, we want to focus on the “half full” as we celebrate and enjoy the extensiveness of women’s lives and rejoice on the extraordinary accomplishments of their ordinary existence. As mothers, daughters, sisters and friends, women are the caregivers, the teachers, and the healers of sick bodies and broken spirits. In the arts, they are the beauty behind the inspiration. In science, sports, and leadership women are as indomitable as men in the pursuit of their lives’ purposes.

To men, women provide a safe harbor and the light of wisdom to reach their deepest dreams. To communities, women supply sustainable roots, energy and hope. In the world, they are its soul and peace keepers, planners behind the scenes and leaders in their own right, if not at the table certainly in the field.

These unsung heroines spend their lives without recognition for their common but otherwise heroic and invisible feats: the world all over, regardless of their financial hardships and health challenges, it is mostly the grandmother who takes in the grandchildren when they either lose their parents, or parents are unable to care for them; it is the mother who sacrifices even her nourishment to keep their children alive; it is the sister who stays behind sacrificing her education to allow her brother to go to school, or it is she who helps with chores beyond her age to contribute to the family security and comfort.

Women are the natural leaders and organizers who provide stability to families and communities. We found endless stories of women who coordinate themselves to advocate for badly needed services, like electricity to keep other women’s safe of violence while they walk through dark roads at night; electricity that helps their kids to study during dark hours and/or provides a warm family meal; we find female judges who have put their lives in jeopardy to help women to file for their rights in places where women’s privileges are denied; or female students and women in the military who dedicate their lives to change perceptions about their physical abilities and intellect to save their country, or to save the world…. and the list goes on toward infinity….

To conclude, I share this post with my friend Caroline Gitau from Nairobi, Kenya. Along with Caroline, other three women from Germany, Tunes, and the United States (myself) and in spirit, our friend Fahmia Alfoith from Yemen, launched an International Solidarity Movement on International Women’s Day. This invisible silver lining is what we women of the world share. Here are Caroline words from her African perspective:

“My heart is with all the women in the world, in war, in peace, in love, and in business; the stay at home mums, those working in mines and oil wells, those that have been stuck in rough patches, [and] those that are faced by diseases; [women] who give and never receive, [and those] who have seen their families taken away from them in Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan ….

Women of religion, those toiling in fields that will feed our next generation, [and] those that don’t even know this day exists. To all the woman…….that like short skirts, and long skirts over trousers, to those that wear Hijabs and walk in the eyes of suspicion, those that love make up and those that don’t, those that want to have children and those that don’t, those that conform to society and those that don’t….

To the little girls that will carry the mantle of our grandchildren; to the men who are feminists who toil to light our candles and enjoy the sight of two candles shinning bright; to the women who are in positions of influence; [and] to the women being ferried in a truck towards the vice of slavery. I celebrate the woman, so much can be said, so little will be done, but wherever we are ….. we can begin to make the difference.1” 

To all women in the world … we are here for you … we feel proud of you wherever you are… and as it is said somewhere, “Women of the world do not wait for change, they make change.2”

  1. Caroline Gitau, (March 8th, 2016). Personal message in celebration of International Women’s Day.
  2. Change.org


Editors Note: Look for Dr. Van Meek’s continuing column, Finding One’s Voice.

This post was scheduled for posting March 2016 but got lost in the shuffle. Our apologies to Dr. Van Meek and our readers.

PhotoFinalLuz Van Meek is a developmental-social psychologist whose areas of expertise comprise gender equality development, women empowerment, social justice, human rights and reproductive health. She is the founding President of the East Florida Chapter of the U.S. National Committee for UN Women where she currently holds the position of National Board Member. Dr. Van Meek has served as a congressional delegate to advocate for the ratification of CEDAW and Child Bride Prevention Act, for teen pregnancy prevention, parental education and maternal health as well as equal pay, equal access to suffrage and equal access for girls to education in hard sciences and participation in male dominated sports. She devoted years to research immigrant women’s mental health, acculturation, social networks and social support. In addition to women’s issues, she worked for children’s empowerment and policy for after school programming.

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