“Be the Change you Wish to See in the World.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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. IMG_1726 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 Half_the_Sky_(book)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 Asherah-2overcome 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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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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