Today is International Women’s Day and I feel so lucky to be working with TWO organizations that strive to make the world a better place for men and women alike: Mama Hope has a dream team staff of some of the most driven, innovative, supportive, exceptional women I’ve ever met and I’m honoured to be a part of the incredible work they do; OLPS has a staff of many brilliant and dedicated women and men who are all working towards the goal of empowering people affected by HIV/AIDS to live healthy, confident lives.
As I wandered around the office this morning wishing everyone a happy International Women’s Day, I was fascinated to hear everyone’s thoughts on the theme of the day. From comments on the role of women to issues of empowerment and equality, everyone had something interesting to add to the conversation.
I want to share their voices with all of you!
Although I wish I’d had the chance to visit the team at the Rescue Center and the Farm to add their thoughts to these, here’s a glimpse into the minds of some of the beautiful souls I work with every day:
Angelica (Social Worker for the OLPS Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programme): “Women have been empowered to do so many things. In Luo society, we were not supposed to eat the gizzard of a hen. Now we are eating. We were not supposed to talk where men are. Now we are speaking and we can say what we are thinking, and we can say what is right before men. We were not supposed to be in the Parliament but nowadays, we are elected. Girl children were not supposed to go to secondary school when there was a brother in the house, but nowadays we do go and we do educate our girl children. So we have been empowered to do that.”
Joshua (HIV Counsellor): “With equality, if it’s embraced, the lady in the house will feel empowered. But not just the ladies in the house, all the women around. No one will take their opinion for granted and that does a lot. When everyone’s opinions are taken seriously then things work well in society.”
Diana (Nurse) and Beatrice (Single Mother of 3 and a Mother Mentor for the OLPS Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Programme): “We can’t be equal! Us women are more special. We carry pregnancies and we raise our children. I don’t think there is a man who could do that on his own!”
Perpetua (Social Worker for the OLPS Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programme): “One thing – women are taken as low-class people, a weak gender, and women are expected to be doing softer jobs. In real sense, women are just like any other human beings. They have brains that allow them to do all the same things as men. Even though society makes them to take softer jobs, in most cases, women are the bread winners. Women nurture the men, the children, and the society. In most cases if the women are not there in the families, the upbringing of the children becomes difficult. In a family that is doing well, the woman is a decision maker just like the man, even if she is a silent decision maker. The woman gives a lot of advice. The woman is strong but in a silent manner. People may not realize how much that the woman is powerful. Women should be given equal opportunity to men because women have the same brains as the men. For people to say women should have softer jobs, to me that one does not make sense.”
Dickson (Laboratory Technician): “Today we look at the shared achievements we have as women and men. We see where we came from and where we are going. People meet, they discuss their achievements, their challenges, their future plans. There is still domestic violence against women and against men. Peaceful coexistence is what we are working towards. Empowered women should use their authority well for this. Today is a very good day.”
Jacinta (Receptionist): “I’m proud to be a woman!”
Mollyne (Nutritionist): “A man cannot stay without a woman. There are so many things a woman can do. A man does not know how to cook. I do the washing. If the man passed away, I could carry on. That is the strength of a woman. When we come home from work, the man sits down, I manage the house. At present, women can do the jobs of men. We even have women pilots! The strength of a woman is very impressive.”
Erick (Programs Manager): “The direction that women’s empowerment is taking us is very positive. In an African setting, if a woman can own land and say ‘this is my land’ then that is very encouraging. Can you imagine now that it is in the constitution that girls just like boys can inherit land from their parents? Culturally, land is a very sensitive issue. Now that the community is embracing that girls inherit land from their parents, that is very, very good!”
Paul (Monitoring & Evaluation Officer): “Society should take this time to correct the historical ills against women. Women have not been recognized, even in their exemplary work, for decades. Now it is time to honour women, like Mary Magdalene, without whom there would be no Christianity and who was portrayed as a mere prostitute. The women in my life deserve honour – my wife and my mom. They make sure that I have very good food and a place called home. That house I stay in is just a house without the women in it – they make it a home.”
Vicky (HIV Counsellor): “According to me, women are the cement strong families are built with. They are also a bank where everyone deposits your worries. The first person you call when you’re worried is always your mom, isn’t it? Women are strong. Even with tears in our eyes, we can still afford a smile.”
John (Voluntary Male Circumcision Programme Coordinator): “Empowerment is a very good thing, but we shouldn’t be selfish with empowerment. Men who are disadvantaged should be empowered too. We need to define what equality means so that it is not a biased equality.”
Leonora (Social Worker for the OLPS Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programme): “Women. They are just like men. What men can do, women can do best. They are responsible for taking care of the children, cooking, doing everything in the house, as well as going to their job.”
Goodsam (Head Clinician): “I would like to appreciate my mom, my wife, and my lovely daughter Jacklyn. I really appreciate these women so much on this International Women’s Day: my mom has done a lot in my life; I love my wife so much, she is very supportive; and my daughter – she is everything to me. I hope that she has a very bright future. She is the reason why I wake up every day to go to work, preparing her future. By the time she has grown up, I’m hoping we have achieved equality for women.”
Dorothy (Student Nutritionist) & Linda (Adherence Counsellor): “Women are hardworking.”
Janekachiki (Community Health Worker): “I am proud to be a mother. The mother is at the root of a family. And it is the beginning of everything for me to put my house in order, including God in everything. The needs of my family depend on me. I am proud to be a mother because I’m working at OLPS and what I’m doing is helping me to take care of my family. Working at OLPS, I can make sure my family are in good health, take them to school, and put God in everything we do.”
Collince (Clinical Officer): “Empowering women to transform their own lives allows men and women to share the responsibility of being the breadwinner. There will be shared decision making and ownership of the family.”
Josephine (Community Health Worker): “A home cannot be a home without a woman!”
Gordon (Pharmacist): “Investing in women is the smartest investment you can make – it’s like investing in the whole society. People expect women to take care of everything, so if you invest in women it will do more good in the society. Women take care of everyone.”
Jackie (Assistant Accountant): “It’s good to empower women, but women should not wait for it to happen. They have to go out there and achieve it! They should have the courage to take opportunities. Go for the education and take the courses that the men do. Fight for the political seats the men fight for. Women shouldn’t shy away from doing things to empower themselves!”
Join the conversation. Let’s make every day International Women’s Day.
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