As Women’s History Month came to an end, I couldn’t help but reflect on the power of women. I thought back to the Recorder’s month-long series on empowering women, including several women who were interviewed by youth participants in our Journalism and Writing Seminars. As I thought of these women and others throughout the years, I was reminded of our strength, resilience and of course, our sacrifice.
I think of the strength Sojourner Truth had during those secret excursions to help slaves gain freedom. Imagine how scared she must have been traveling in the dark of night with nothing to guide her but the stars above. Despite any fear Truth may have felt, she remained steadfast in her attempt.
When I think of strength, I also think of people like WISH-TV anchor Deanna Dewberry who is now battling cancer for the third time, yet she is still able to be a loving and supportive mother and wife, as well as a hardworking journalist who continues to provide exceptional news coverage.
Strength also reminds me of women like Carolene Mays, who was able to leave an abusive marriage where she experienced several near-death experiences, and lead one of the country’s best Black newspapers, become a respected politician, and now a commissioner for the state of Indiana.
Strength reminds me of my own mother, who was a wonderful and kind woman who always helped others – even if it meant sacrificing herself. A woman who successfully and single-handedly raised three children who not only inherited her loving spirit and kind nature, but also her strength and determination.
When I think of a woman’s strength, I think of Eman al-Obeidy, the Libyan woman who courageously interrupted a press conference where foreign journalists were present to inform the world of her rape and beating by Col. Muammar el-Quaddafi’s militia.
And when I think of strength I also think of Hena Akhter. Akhter was a 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl who was accused of having an affair with a married man, but in all actuality she was raped by her uncle who had been eyeing her for months. The punishment for her “crime”: 101 lashes. Her small frame fell after 70 lashes and she died a week later. Bangladeshi officials ruled her death a suicide but after her body was exhumed and an outside entity performed an autopsy, the official cause of death was determined to be internal bleeding. Akhter’s last words to her mother were: “I’m innocent.”
There’s something innate about a women’s strength; it’s an inheritance that is generations long. I sincerely believe that all women have the strength to do whatever it is we want to do. However, many of us don’t use our strength. The women I mentioned above all relied on their strength to get them through challenging times. Their strength made them resilient, but that doesn’t mean it came without sacrifice. All of the aforementioned women have sacrificed something; for Akhter, it was her life.
Considering the tremendous sacrifices that these women and millions of others make everyday, it frustrates me to see when they are unappreciated or mistreated.
I watch how men abuse and degrade women…it sickens me. I see how ungrateful children take advantage of their mothers, or how out-of-control youth disrespect their teachers.
This unacceptable behavior has to end. There are some cultures around the world who are far less fortunate than the poorest American, yet they have reverence for the women in their lives. There’s something wrong with our system because the maltreatment of women is entirely too common. One thing that can change this seemingly epidemic is that women must first demand more respect. So often we let men off the hook or don’t hold children accountable for their actions. We have to demand the respect we so rightfully deserve.
Many great women have enhanced our world, but if you need an example, don’t search television, books or the Internet. Simply take time to appreciate a great woman in your life, whether she is your mother, your wife, your sister, a good friend or a professional colleague.
If we all remember a time in our life when a great woman’s support gave us the strength to carry on, it won’t be hard giving her the treatment she deserves.