A Journey to the Asherah Foundation

I grew up in a middle-class family in a metropolitan city in northern China. Fortunately, I have been able to count on my parents who have always supported me by investing in and continually sacrificing for my future and have tirelessly supported my continuing education and career goals.NorthernChina I have wanted to become a diplomat ever since I started learning English; the elementary school and middle school I attended provided strong foreign language programs that prepared me well for studying abroad. When I was 15, my mother had the foresight to send me to study in an American high school and to live with a host family. From my Catholic high school in a small town of the New York State, I began to develop a passion for international relations. I would not have been able to stand on the podium and give a speech to the graduating class of my high school as the salutatorian and then go to George Washington University without the support of my parents.

GeorgewashingtonUAs I began to take courses related to International Affairs in college, I was introduced to a new way of examining global issues. Having grown up in a culturally homogeneous society, I used to look at social problems through the lenses of gender and class. After I came to the U.S., I learned that one’s life chances could also be limited by his or her nationality, ethnicity, race, and even sexual orientation. I learned that the intersectional forces that combine the elements aforementioned can severely restrict a woman’s access to education and employment.

In rural China, families that have multiple children tend to send their daughters to work at a young age to ensure that the sons can finish high school. This means that many girls from low-income families have difficulties receiving full basic education, let alone going to college. Even in big cities, many people still hold the traditional expectations of women being housewives who take care of their children and husbands. Friends of my parents have suggested that I should return to China after obtaining a bachelor’s degree so that I can settle down and get married. Fortunately, my parents dismissed such recommendations and encouraged me to apply for graduate schools.

The current society dominated by patriarchal norms has a stigma against successful women: it is unnecessary for women to pursue education higher than a bachelor’s or take leadership in the workplace. But I firmly believe that education gives women agency, mobility, and independence, some of the tools to more easily cope with structural barriers in life and to make an impact on one’s community.GW_Graduates

Studying abroad and majoring in International Affairs broadened my horizon and gave me precious opportunities that I would have never had if I had stayed in China. I want to contribute my time and knowledge to women’s empowerment through education because studying abroad has made a huge impact on my own life. I also know that not everyone is as fortunate as me in terms of having a robust support system. Nowadays, as the cost of quality education continues to rise, the lack of funds and resources can threaten a person’s access to schooling or the pursuit of his or her goals in life. I hope that my work with the Asherah Foundation can help women around the world gain access to education and succeed.

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Strong Women Everywhere: Appreciating the ways in which women triumph over adversity

Tucson, ArizonaI 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 hadJaén, Spain 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.

Bautismo de Jesús Taquirri Gualsaqui FloresAfter 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 myAsherah Foundation 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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