Friday, February 29, 2008

Women Helping Women

It's 6:30 am, Pacific Time, and I'm sitting in the Sacramento airport. I'm waiting for my plane home. I've been here all week for business.

Through bleary eyes I pick up my Starbucks hot chocolate cup (yes, sometimes I don't order tea!) and see this quote on the back:
"There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."-- Madeleine K. Albright
Former Secretary of State (first woman to do so) and Ambassador to the UN

I remember the first time I became truly cognizant of this idea of women helping women. I was probably 9 years old, and my Aunt M. was visiting. She was telling me about her work at a women's shelter. We didn't have a women's shelter in my small town, and this was a new idea to me. I listened to her stories about how it gave her such joy and such a mission in life to help these women get out of abusive relationships and make a new start. It's one of those moments that has become crystallized in my mind. I'm sure she didn't realize the long-lasting impact this would have on me, but I've always remembered her commitment to serving other women.

This morning, the Albright quote reached out and touched my heart. I am convinced that it is up to the women of this world to make fundamental changes in how cultures and societies behave. Traditionally, women work as a unit - we help each other. The strength in this community is unmeasurable. Women have the power to make this world the best place it can be - we just have to help support each other along the way, step outside of traditional limitations and say "No more" to the injustice of violence, war, domination.

I am impressed with the work of Women for Women International. This organization strives to help women in war zones rebuild their communities. These women become agents of peace. The organization provides education, job skills training and microcredit.

A little closer to home, I admire the efforts of Girls Incorporated. Girls, Inc. inspires our young women to be "strong, smart and bold." I think that's the best mission statement I've ever read! If women are to change this world, we need them strong, smart and bold. Boldness is something I'm growing into and I hope future generations feel even more comfortable claiming their legitimate - and powerful - place in this world.

I grew up in a time when the differences between women and men were more subtle than explicitly restrictive. But it's there and I felt it heavily - in church, in school. Today I still feel it, even in my great company. In society, there exists this subtle insinuation (and expectation) that women are soft, gentle, sweet. Indeed, we are. But we are also strong, powerful and fierce. May we reach deeply into all of our strengths and change this world.


Alice said...

I think the strength of women is what I've always noticed most. Men either fight or crumble but women are there steadily holding everything together.

Marmie said...

Here in Utah, People helping People is a group of women helping women improve their employment skills. It has been great to participate in.

MEP said...

Love that quotation--thanks for sharing. My dissertation is all about female friendships and how the ways women support and sustain one another are a great model for citizenship and democracy. I think about these kinds of issues all the time!

sweetcakes said...

What a beautiful sentiment. Only you could write something so spectacular at 6:30am.

For me, it is through the women in my life that I gain the most strength, feel the most hope, share the most laughter and tears with, and always know that they will be there for me, again and again.

My husband once told me that I was the one in our family that held things together, and that made things happen. I think that's true of most women, it is at least true of all the women that I know and love.

Linda said...

I firmly believe that women need women. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Steph -

I don't know where I would be without my female friendships. They help keep me sane!

Truly inspiring thoughts you have posted.

Lisa :)

Allison said...

Well said, Steph. It was great to see you this week!

Katie said...

such a nice post. I agree with everything you have said!

artandtea said...

Very powerful post, Steph. I enjoyed reading it. There's nothing like the power and strength of women gathering and helping each other.
The title of your post just reminded me of a donation my company made recently to a women's shelter in Wailuku, Maui called Women Helping Women.
That photo is awesome.

conniewestley said...

Steph - I love that quote! thing about getting older :) you see this more and more women helping women! We are survivors! Great to see you last week!

Esmerelda said...

Don't forget Women Writing for (a) Change!

Giving women voices....