Today marks the start of Women's History Month. This is a time to celebrate and uplift the stories of girls and women around the world who impact their communities in seen and unseen ways.
Last month, I was able to help train some leaders (mostly women!) in my town on a methodology for working with children as they prepared for a week-long day camp (it's "summer vacation" down here). This method is developed by a Dallas, Texas-based organization called Rainbow Days, where self-esteem is the vehicle used to help children develop critical thinking skills and self-awareness to gain autonomy by learning to make decisions that direct them towards a positive future.
These are five main messages of empowerment (I'll use the Spanish version here):
The team launched the guided discussion sessions and have been connecting it to their own curriculum, fostering an environment of love, acceptance, and support for over 80 children in the community, and will culminate this Sunday.
With the main message of "Yo Soy!", we invite children to identify themselves and see their place in the world as valuable. The first answer we usually get is "Yo soy niño/a!" This reveals to me that all over the world we instill both age and gender roles and ideas (and maybe stereotypes) that are associated with gender identities at a very early time in the lives of our younger generations.
Eventually, as we use the Rainbow Days method of guided discussion, we are able to pull other ideas of how children see themselves:
Yo soy una amiga!
Yo soy una mujer!
Yo soy una hermana!
Yo soy una hija!
Ah yes -- hija -- is the one identity in which I have also defined myself for my entire life. As long as I have memories, I have always known I was the daughter of Michael & Angelica, and it is this identity of who I am that has defined the trajectory of my life.
When I first moved to Ecuador, the hardest first holiday was Father's Day... I'd missed Father's Days past, but this time, living in a foreign country and with a family that was not my own, I felt distant and isolated from the most comfortable identity that I'd embraced for the first 28 years of my life. It was spiritually troubling to feel that first sting of disconnect while beginning my life abroad. So I did what I do best in my moments of sadness: I wrote "Daughterhood" for this blog.
My parents came to visit me in Ecuador last year and it was the best time of my experience here.
Now though my identity as a daughter has shifted in the years of adulthood and has taken on many forms, one thing has remained constant: the love and support of the people who gave me this gift and brought me to life and into my own version of womanhood. They have carried my burdens to the altar, they have cried with me and felt my pain through the ups and downs of my twenties and right up and through the life I've created here in Ecuador.
I said that my father, Mike, is my favorite human. But if you're like me and you believe that marriage makes two people one flesh, Angie is right there next to him. They have different styles of parenting that over 30 years have melded together beautifully. They really have been the "secret sauce" in my ability to see this Peace Corps journey through, and I am grateful to God forever for giving me them.
So for the start of Women's History Month I am celebrating all of the people who build up brilliant, beautiful, bold girls and help them transform into the women change agents that we all are in our own special way. May we all follow their example and strengthen the girls and women around us, spurring each other on to live our best lives and fulfill our God-give purposes.
Girls, we got this.
First day of camp with the kids!