Today is International Women’s Day – a day that celebrates and recognises women all over the world. For me, this day always seems personal because I champion for women everyday but on days like this, all I can think about is the women all around the world who are suffering. So, before I continue I would like to share a personal story.
I read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings for the first time when I was 17 years old. I knew who Maya Angelou was. This was the woman who brought us amazing poems like Phenomenal Woman and Still I Rise but I had never read any of her books before. However, this was about to change.
I was in my final year of A’Levels and I had to pick three books to research on for my final English Literature coursework. At first, I was going to go with Purple Hibiscus (by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), The Help (Kathryn Stockett) and Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) – all of which were written by strong powerful women.
However, I just couldn’t get into Wuthering Heights even though I tried. So, my friend suggested I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to me and I thought, “Hey, might as well”.
So, I read it.
Never in my life had I read a book that I could somewhat relate to on a deep personal level. I always admired her and knew that she was such a wise woman. So, when I read that she had been raped and was so traumatised by it that she couldn’t speak, my heart broke. My heart broke because it reminded me of my molestation; the abuse that I endured. The worst part for me was that I didn’t know how to feel. I wasn’t sad or angry about it but I felt dirty inside. I felt like I was a filthy human being. I felt like the fact that I didn’t feel particularly sad meant that I was a horrible human being. Even now, I have to constantly remind myself that I was a child and I didn’t deserve to go through that.
So, when I read that book that discussed Maya’s past, it made me feel empowered because Maya Angelou is such a celebrated woman. She picked herself up. She endured so much pain and yet, she did not let that hinder her from being who she wanted to be. So, I knew that I couldn’t let my past be the yardstick that determines my future.
A lot of women suffer sexual abuse everyday and these women still have to wake up in the morning and go to work and take care of their children and their families. These women do what they have to do to ensure that everyone around them is okay.
And it’s not just sexual abuse! More often than not, women still deal with slut-shaming, body-shaming and being made to feel less than in the workplace, school, home and with the new age of social media, the attitudes only get worse.
Women play crucial roles in the society today. They play the roles of wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. Each role carrying more responsibility and they do it with grace and dignity. When a girl is brought into the world, there are societal standards that are set for her to reach. It is expected that she be perfect and when she slips up, society shames her. Yet, women are the glue that holds society together; the calm to the storm.
So, when I think of all that women do in the society and yet are made to feel less, it bothers me. Women have a sort of inner strength that almost seems effortless and this strength is often under appreciated. It is nice and wonderful to have a day that celebrates women all over the world. However, it shouldn’t just be one day.
It should be everyday, not because we deserve it but because we’ve earned it.