I grew up in a supportive household, both my mother and father worked full time, and both encouraged me to pursue my dreams in doing whatever I wanted, as long as I was happy, just as my brother was encouraged to pursue his. I was told that women were strong, and smart, and capable of anything any man was. It was an ideal I shortsightedly expected everyone else to have, and managed to carry with me through high school and undergrad by surrounding myself with people that thought similarly as I did. Then I studied abroad, and my stable notion of a woman’s equal position in the world became slightly skewed.
I moved to southern Spain, where I experienced an ever so slight variation of what I had experienced back home. Though there were women working everywhere and in high positions, there were also varying cultural cues that shifted my feeling of security. The catcalls were much more prevalent, personal space was differently understood than in the States, showing up at a bar or club with just another girlfriend drew attention. But all of this was still in my realm of understanding, I could adapt easily and adjust to people standing too close or strangers saying gross intimate things to me on public transportation. I looked at the women in Spain, and Portugal, and I saw women similar to me, educated, stable economic backgrounds, and I saw that they were strong, and smart, and capable of anything any man was, regardless of the differences in culture or country.
After I graduated college, I decided to join the Peace Corps. I was sent to Ecuador to live in a small Quechua community. I experienced a lifestyle for women I would have never expected and struggled to accustom to. I wasn’t allowed to wear skirts that showed my knees, to wear shirts with my shoulders uncovered, I was looked down upon for not having children and not being married. I worked with some women that needed to ask for permission to leave the house, that took care of husbands that were abusive or negligent. I also worked with women in that same community who owned their own businesses, drove cars, had education, traveled. What I think amazed me the most, which I admit again was shortsighted, was not only how strong the women with education, and jobs or businesses were, but how strong, smart, and capable the women who didn’t have those same liberties were as well, despite the adversity in their lives. Adapting to the cultural differences, the strength and beauty of my new community and its people, I learned to love the community, the lifestyle, and my host family, as my own.
I have had the luxury to live many different lives in many different places, and have been lucky enough to observe women all over the world, and regardless of the country, culture, challenges, limitations, amenities, education, money, that a woman possesses, I have seen she is strong, smart, and capable of anything anyone else can do, and I think it is important to keep in mind wherever life takes you.
These experiences have been paramount to my own personal growth, but also to what led me to the Asherah Foundation. I’ve seen women being strong, and smart, and capable, regardless of the circumstances, but I want to part of the movement that makes some of these circumstances a little more equitable for the women that need it most.
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