I have always had access to recourse. I am a Caucasian American with educated and well-travelled parents, entering at birth into the ranks of the most privileged people on the planet. Growing up, I was the only girl, sandwiched between two tyrannical brothers, which gave me the most fundamental understanding of conflict resolution and the need for advocacy. Again, I was lucky to have parents who taught us about fairness, and also encouraged us to explore the complexity of a world where fairness is not so readily accessible. It was in Dhaka, Bangladesh, during a college internship, that I gained knowledge of the barriers women face to equity in the developing world.
When I graduated from college in 2004, my story took an immediate twist. I discovered I was pregnant the same week I received my acceptance letter to a two-year humanitarian internship in Jakarta, Indonesia. My husband and I struggled through the decision to place our first son for adoption, and then after the birth of our second son, we separated and subsequently divorced.
It was as a single mother that I began to understand what it meant to feel as though I had little recourse. I had reached adulthood with an embarrassing level of oblivion regarding the wide-ranging effects of patriarchy, racism, and other structural forms of oppression. This narrow view was due in large part to the fact that I had never encountered any significant glass ceilings until I found myself trying to navigate the welfare system. I suddenly knew what it meant to be poor and to feel desperate, and my sympathy for those with no recourse was transformed into empathy. I also saw myself in perspective, relative to women in the U.S. and around the globe whose poverty and desperation is far more crippling than what I experienced.
It was a privilege in disguise to share the emotions and barriers of the people I have devoted my life to helping. In the midst of my separation from my husband, I started a nonprofit called Bald Solidarity that addresses global women’s rights issues. It developed out of a stumbling desire to do something from where I stand to address human rights violations, and the poverty and oppression from which those issues result. Now, as a mother, a law student and a nonprofit director, I’m eager to find my place in the global women’s rights movement.My Story: Standing Up