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What Makes You Proud of Yourself or the Women in Your Life?

Illustration of women and girls marching together with flags - International Women's Day

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, we asked our English students to share what makes them proud of themselves or the women in their life; here are their reflections.

Aniece R., Institute student from Haiti:

“As a child, I had always dreamed of becoming a lawyer, and it has been eight years since this dream came true. I had the possibility of helping the person who needed a lawyer, especially the minorities, women and children, and victims of violence. I also had the opportunity to share my experiences, my knowledge with them. I had created an organization with my husband and other friends to help young women who want to become lawyers. Today I am the mother of a beautiful daughter. She is two years old. I’m so very proud of myself because I can help her, take care of her, and lead her in this world. I thank God for all these graces.”

Cory Z., Institute student from Ecuador:

“I’m proud of my grandmother Rosalia, she worked very hard to be able to send her children to school and college. She worked in the fields planting cocoa, plantain, fruits and vegetables. At that time my grandmother was low-income and everything she planted was to eat and sell. Her husband died when she was 50 years old, and she raised her six children alone. Now my mom is a successful woman and her siblings as well, thanks to the efforts of my grandmother.”

Institute student from Kenya:

“I am very proud of my elementary teacher. Even though I was a young girl at the time, her impact in my life was vivid. My memory about her is fading, but I will never forget how she encouraged me to read and write. Her patience with me was amazing, and I am very thankful to her. She brought light into my life. I am also proud of my mother who single-handedly took care of my sisters and I, and gave us the chance for education and the opportunity to thrive. I thank God for her, she is our backbone.”

Shimaa A., Institute student from Egypt:

“I want to say every woman has a different power and also they are very strong. First I’m proud of my mother, who helped me a lot and taught me many things to be independent and wise like her. I know she learned these things from her mother too, so I watched my grandmothers. They both managed their families by themselves without any men because their husbands died early and left them alone with their children. They were going to work and taking care of their children, and also they were having a farm and some animals, they did planting and also selling groceries and a lot of things to do! They got their children educated and through school and got them married and helped them with it. My maternal grandmother had six children at this time, and my paternal grandmother had 10 children at this time, too. According to tradition, they were married at 12, I think, so now I have learned many things, like how to be patient and independent although here in the USA it’s a different country and with no one with me among my relatives or siblings.”

Sonnah D., Institute student from Cameroon:

“No one chooses to be born a woman or a man, as such, it is important that we respect and value everyone for who they are. The International Women’s Day which is celebrated every eighth of March is one way to ensure that women should be treated right and be given equal opportunity to contribute in all spheres of life, be it politics, economics, engineering, sciences, etc.

Despite the societal discrimination and the relegation of women to an inferior position in the world, history has made us understand that the contributions of women to the wellbeing of our society are invaluable. Using myself as an example, my mother is my hero and the main reason behind my education/success and that of my siblings. My parents didn’t get the chance to be educated, as such, it was more likely that their offspring would not be educated either. My dad is a local businessman and out of ignorance, he didn’t believe in education as he saw it as a waste of time. He thought his best option was to groom and train us his children to become businesspersons like him. My mom, though equally uneducated, and a farmer, taught that it was very important for her children to be educated; she did everything she could just to make sure we all get an education. My dad later joined her in her cause to get us (children) educated.

I have great respect for women and my mother has fostered that belief in women even more. I vividly remember one of her famous quotes and her motivation to get us educated: Just because I am ‘blind’ does not mean my children will be ‘blind’ like me: they will be educated, they’ll be my eyes. Even though my mother did not go to school, to me she’s educated, because she appreciates the beauty of education. I’m so proud of her, and other wonderful women in the world. I believe that if we treat women right and give them the chance, they can make us all proud; they can make the world a better place.”

Daisuke I., Institute student from Japan:

“Firstly, I have to appreciate my mother, Yoshimi. She is from Japan. She is special to me. I learned kindness, compassion and love from my mother. She was always busy when I was a child because she had to take care of my father and my two years older brother while she worked at a hair salon. I remember that one day, when she tried to go to work, I saw the pain on her face because she had a backache so bad, and I thought she should not go. However, she went to work. After work, she cooked dinner and did some chores. Then, she had to wake up early the next morning and cook breakfast for my family. Old Japanese culture had less women’s rights; it was not fair to men and women in life. I was very impressed she did both. When I asked her why you work so hard, she said, ‘Because I love you so much, and I want you to stay safe and healthy,’ with a smile.

I love that she showed me how to care for people, that you should give something such as good things to people rather than you would like to have something from people, so you will be satisfied with your heart. For example, I really like to help people such as volunteering, supporting and cooking. If I did that, it really feels good; I do not know why nice people are always around me and help me a lot.

When I was bullied in Junior high school, she was always by my side and cared for me even though I was depressed and I kept silent; it made her stressed, but she encouraged me and supported me. I loved what she said: ‘I am your mother, I know you better than anyone, I know your thoughts, I know your feelings, do not compete with others, you should love yourself.’ She gave me purpose to live my life.”

Veronica B., Institute student from Ecuador

“If I have to think of who I am, I have to start with the lineage of my ancestral strong women who came before me. My great-grandmother Carmen was a landowner, but her passion was to help people; she was a healer! At that time it was not something that people would be proud of. She and her husband raised eight children, and all of them studied at the university; that was a big deal at that time. I didn’t know until later that she was a natural healer and that she used to have an herbal garden with all of the herbs she needed to make natural medicine. I asked a lot about her. She knew how to help people with different illnesses, and also she helped women giving birth. She used to have a small room for people who need it to stay for more time in her house and be healed. She never received money for those services, but the people often gave her small animals, products or fruits from their houses. She knew that the people didn’t have money or sometimes those smalls gifts were part of the family meals, so she gave them more things from her farm but always received their gifts or offerings so people didn’t feel like their gifts were being rejected.

Abuelita Carmen was a nice curandera (natural healer); she was the mother of my abuelita (grandmother) Lola. My grandmother was something special and I remember so much of her teachings. When she was a kid, she was the funniest in the family, the dancer, the singer and the outgoing one. She and her siblings were sent to study in the capital of Ecuador, Quito. She used to go to visit her parents in the summertime to the city of Salcedo. When she graduated from high school, she studied to be a secretary, at that time women were only allowed to study a few careers. But also she started working in an international pharmaceutical company, she used to tell me that they used to dry medicinal herbs to fill the pills with that medicine.

She married my grandfather and they had seven children, but when she was 30 years old, she was widowed. She promised my grandfather that she was going to quit working so she could be with their kids more time. But when my grandfather died, she was lucky that she didn’t quit her job, and she worked in that company until she retired. She raised all of her children, all of them succeeded in their careers. When my grandmother retired she bought a pharmacy so she can be busy; she was a businesswoman. I remember helping her to make different ointments, with herbs and natural products. I was so happy to see her helping people. She knew when people didn’t have money to pay her. She was an entrepreneur at that time. She used to travel and visit places. She was always busy. I remember my friends’ grandmothers used to cook or bake and never were allowed to be so independent, and I saw that my grandmother was different. She loves to go to the beach or the mountains, walk and enjoy nature.

When I was a child, I didn’t pay attention to who I was surrounded by, but when I came to live in the United States only with my husband and my daughters, that is when I realized that we are more than the person that people see. I felt the need to start learning about my family, and I started asking my mother about my grandmother and my great-grandmother. I learned my great-grandmother was a healer, and also that my grandmother used to know that much about herbs. My mother is a social worker and she was raised with all the occidental western medicine, but I knew I have a little something in me that was curious about the herbs and the natural ways of healing, so I start learning here a lot.

It is so interesting to know that we can use both modern and traditional medicine for our health. I found in my life many teachers who were able to pass on to me their knowledge and wisdom. They said when you are open to learning, the teacher will come. I am still learning, and every time that I make tea or make an infused herbal oil or an ointment, I know my grandmothers are with me. When I am with my mother, she always tells me that I cook like my great-grandmother and that I have a lot of my grandmother, that makes me so happy! I enjoy passing the little that I know to my daughters, and I wish they tell their children one day how you can keep wisdom and traditions.”

Special thanks to our students for sharing their stories and helping us celebrate International Women’s Day!