I have lived a privileged life since the day I was born. My parents have given me every opportunity to succeed and supported me in every decision I have ever made in life. I was fortunate enough to have parents that understood the importance of learning about other cultures, and so my passion for learning about the world started at a young age. When I was in 7th grade, we went on our first family trip abroad, to Italy. When I was in high school, we went to France and the United Kingdom. I also had the opportunity to participate in an exchange program with a school in Germany, and to this day, I am still amazing friends with my exchange partner. I will be forever grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to travel at a young age because it kick-started my interest in the broader world. I am now a junior at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, pursuing a degree in International Studies with minors in Political Science, Women’s and Gender Studies, and French. Next year, I will study abroad. The Asherah Foundation has helped me realize that it is time for me to break out of my comfort zone and go somewhere where I am completely immersed in a new culture.
Women have played a central role in my life. I am the oldest child in my family, having three younger siblings, all biologically female. My mother is my role model. She has overcome every adversity in her life with strength and perseverance. I want to be a role model for my siblings and make a difference for them. Although I am young and have not decided on a career path, I know that I want my work and life to have a purpose and that I want to make change in the world.
Not everyone has the same privileged opportunities that I have enjoyed. Women around the world face challenges every day that make our issues in the U.S. seem microscopic. I just recently read Half the Sky: Turing Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. If you have not read it, I highly suggest that you take the time to read it. This book puts women’s issues around the world into a relatable perspective. The book touches on women in sex trafficking and the brutality that women face as minorities in underdeveloped countries. While it is disturbing to read, Half the Sky shares the real stories of women overcoming the brutalities, and changing reality for women in underdeveloped countries. Many societies value women only for their appearances and in some cultures, a woman’s role in society is determined by her biological sex, not by her actual abilities. This book does a good job at showing this problem in societies, but goes on to show how women can break free of these constraints through education.
We live in a world that can suppress a women’s determination and diminish opportunities for women to utilize their knowledge and abilities. My work with The Asherah Foundation has reassured me that women are very much capable of overcoming suppression and succeeding even in societies that tell them they can’t succeed. By giving women around the world the means they need to pursue their education, The Asherah Foundation is providing women with the tools they need to overcome that suppression. An education is more than just a degree. An education means higher incomes, better health outcomes, lower risk of mental illnesses, and more opportunities overall for women. I am grateful to have worked with a passionate group of people who are truly helping to make a difference for women around the world. I thank The Asherah Foundation for giving me the opportunity to contribute to its mission of providing women with access to the means of completing a postsecondary education.
“Women might just have something to contribute to civilization other than their vaginas.” – Christopher Buckley, Florence of Arabia
Written by: Caroline O’Reilly, International Development Intern (Summer 2018)
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