It has been over two decades since Hillary Clinton made a historic statement at the Beijing Conference, noting that women’s rights are human rights. And yet, though we’ve come a long way since, the “long way” has only been in time, not in developments. Today, women are as marginalised, brutalised and ostracised as they were nearly two decades ago. The time to come together to fight this has long since arrived - and now, it is imperative that we form a powerful sisterhood to rise above patriarchy and misogyny, and act on it.
The power of a sisterhood was not something I was aware of, or knew of, until I entered my twenties. As a child, I was a loner, quiet and keeping to myself, perhaps with an occasional burst of friends who came and went. Until I discovered that women can and do make good friends and sisters for each other, I found myself smarting under influences where girls took girls down, women took women down, and competed with each other fiercely. In middle school, I saw that girls took girls down to reserve their “spots” for the most popular. In high school, I saw that girls took girls down to shame body types they didn’t think were acceptable, in order to assert themselves. Through university and college, I saw girls take girls down by jostling for opportunities by mudslinging against each other. Throughout the journey, I found women becoming – unwittingly, most of the time – ambassadors of patriarchy by reasserting stereotypes for their daughters, granddaughters, nieces and sisters to follow.
In 2011, I joined World Pulse – and that was my first turning point in this rhetoric. I discovered a new journey, a new reality, and a powerful new possibility: a sustainable sisterhood that would walk the extra mile to make life better for one and for all, all at once.
In my first few interactions, I stumbled upon a beautiful word: Ubuntu. It was much more than an operating system on a computer, as I would come to understand. It meant, “I am who I am because of who we are together.” What a powerful, moving thought, right? In a world that is so increasingly lost in the idea of being able to stand out in a maddening crowd, in a world that is so caught up with fighting in the rat race, and not focusing on what it takes to come together. In the process, many of us make the mistake of putting our faces for the cause. When one works for a cause, it is the cause that is the hero, not the people behind it. And that is why it makes most sense to collaborate, not compete, for with the limited resources one can have in hand, coming together is the only way to make an impact that is lasting and sustainable.
The journey since then has been a powerful upward facing graph. Whether it was in expressing myself, or in sharing my story, whether it was in seeking to bridge a gap in my knowledge and skills or in seeking support for an action I was embarking on, this sisterhood was my safety net. In the real world, I hadn’t found such friends – and in the virtual world, my safety net had been constructed. Slowly, that safety net had spilled out onto my real world, and I made the most powerful friendships, mentorship associations and personal sisterhoods.
As I write this, I see that I have had the benefit of all these amazing women in my life. And now, it’s my turn to Pay It Forward. I hope, someday, to take this inspiration forward through action and by setting an example for all the young women I work with.
I sit here with the image of all the amazing women who have been there for me. Only one thing comes to mind, which I will leave you with: a Sanskrit saying that translates thusly: “I stand before my teacher and my God. Whose feet do I touch? I will touch yours, my teacher, for it is you who showed me the path to my God.”
This post was submitted in response to I Am Where I Am Because....