An Oldie, But a Goodie: Computer Room Dialogues

By Kashay Sanders 

2009-07-21 thru 07-29 India Business Trip 31

Sitting in the computer lab of the school where I work, power out, mid-day, it’s exams time—the school is quiet except for the rustle of teachers walking to and fro. I sit with a young, Muslim Indian woman, no older than twenty, equally as restless.  She is the School Madam’s daughter and she has visited the school a few times, so we have a good relationship. Insanely smart, she is currently enrolled in Shadan Engineering College in Hyderabad and her English is effortless.

We got into a discussion about her future plans. Her parents have arranged for her to be married within the year, and she seems pretty happy with the groom-to-be, joking that he looks like Salman Khan (the biggest Bollywood actor in India). As he now works in Saudi Arabia, the two exchange texts and phone calls, but have yet to meet in person. However, a huge life shift awaits her along with this marriage—the groom has a brother running a business in Chicago. And he plans to join him. She, of course, will move as well, and intends to pursue a Masters in America.

I explained to her that she may be a bit shocked by American culture, particularly how women dress. I asked her what she thought about that.

“Well, about that kind of dress, think about if you see a woman wearing almost nothing on the street versus a woman in a burka, what do you think the man will want?”

I answered obviously—the woman wearing less clothing.

She responded, “Exactly. But I can walk on the street, in my burka, and not worry about someone looking at me inappropriately. I am anonymous and can move freely.”

She and I had good enough rapport for me to challenge her.  “That’s interesting! But…many women have the idea that it is a GOOD thing to get that kind of attention. It makes them feel powerful, it makes them feel confident. Or, if not that, they see liberation as being able to dress any way they wish, regardless of any one’s opinion.”

She agreed that this was true.  We both came to the conclusion that however a woman feels most powerful is what she should be allowed to do. No one should ever tell her, for example, that wearing a burka outside somehow diminishes her as a woman, we decided. She went on to adamantly defend her position as a Muslim woman, saying that she loves it and is tired of people casting it in a bad light.  “So tell me, you studied gender, what do you think about women in India?”

I sat back. That was certainly not a small question.  “Well…it’s obviously more complex than what’s often presented to the “Western” world. What I’m learning is that power doesn’t look like just one thing—it doesn’t have one style of dress or one way of talking or of being a daughter or mother or friend.  We can’t just make assumptions about women’s empowerment based on what we see on the surface of a country. That said, India still has a long way to go. America too. None of us are there yet.”

She nodded, agreeing with my statement and we sat back in silence again, the fan started whirring as the power snapped back on, the sound of children getting up from their exams began outside.

In case you’re wondering, YES, I am actively recruiting this woman to be a VOICE counselor this year. 

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Self Worth, Self Value, and Carrying On

True Value Hardware

By Kiera Murphy

It’s hard to say where we would be in the world if it wasn’t for women having self worth. Women like my mother and grandmothers.  Self value as women is something that I believe we build upon generation after generation.

If it wasn’t for those steps that the women before us made to make a stand for women’s rights who would we have to look up to as role models?

From the very moment I was born I was blessed to have a family that stood behind women’s rights. I was the only female grandchild in the family for quite some time. I was raised along side my two male cousins and they were my friends just as much as my cousins. I played with them in the mud and grew up playing co-ed soccer along their side as the only girl on the team. I wasn’t treated any differently. I was just as quick and strong and could probably put up a fight to beat anyone to the ball more than any player out on the field.

I remember my favorite t-shirt said “Yeah I play like a girl, and I can kick the ball 90 mph past your face, just like a girl!” I’m pretty sure I thought the U.S.A. Soccer Women’s National Team where the coolest people on the planet when they won the gold medal in both 1996 and 2004. And when Brandi Chastain lifted her jersey bearing only her sports bra I personally dubbed her as a Goddess! (A major statement in female sports history for the strength
of a Woman).

I was proud to be a girl and not afraid to show my strength. Then as we all do, I turned 13. A lot gets brought onto your plate when you turn 13, including the idea that all of a sudden boys are no longer oozing with cooties. I would find myself in situations when a boy would make me feel terrible about myself. I started wearing make-up in ridiculous ways, I would wear odd clothes that showed way too much and bat my eyelashes just to get that special crushes attention.

I’ve had great opportunities to share my pride to be myself with lots of younger girls through being a camp counselor over the past three summers. Everyday, summer after summer, I was able to be a role model for my campers. When I worked up in the mountains with Girl Scouts, I showed the girls that It was okay to go on an intense hike and get muddy and smelly. When I worked at the beach, I would show girls that it wasn’t embarrassing to go out there in the lineup of surfers in a wetsuit and just catch a wave without worrying who was watching. Summer after summer I watched my campers look up to me for the amount of respect that I showed myself. It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Then came Voice 4 Girls here in India. India really opened up my eyes to the lack of self worth some of these girls experience for their whole lives. Girls all around the world grow up with out a supportive family or environment that helps them realize their value to society. I will never forget my first day as an intern and Voice and I looked one of the little girls right in the eyes and held her hands saying that she can do anything. She can make her dreams come true. I just told her to believe in herself as much as I believe in her. I will never forget that moment and I hope she feels the same way.

Everyone deserves all the opportunities in the world. But when you’re dealing with young girls it takes that role model to look up to. You don’t have to be Mother Teresa or Oprah or Lady Gaga to do it either! I just takes that special person to tell you your worth it! It’s a promise that we must make to the future daughters of the world. Each generation has to fight for our right as women in society to make the future brighter for the future generations. Just this past month I heard a beautiful quote by President Barrack Obama that captures what I’m trying to say and what inspired this blog.

“We must carry forward, the work of women who came before us, and
ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to
their achievements, and no remaining ceilings to shatter.”  -President
Barrack Obama

I think it’s important to instill self-worth and value in the mind and heart of every women everywhere, because we are the future of the world. And we go about this by fighting for our rights, standing up for our sisters of the world, and by being that role model for young girls everywhere. We can do it!

Organization Spotlight: Global Girl Media


 A few weeks back we had the lovely opportunity to interview Annie Williams of Global Girl Media.  GlobalGirl Media, headquartered in Los Angeles,  is dedicated to empowering high school age girls from under-served communities through media, leadership and journalistic training to have a voice in the global media universe and their own futures. Their work is spreading across the globe and VOICE looks up to and forward thanks to foundations organizations like GGM have laid. 

Can you include a short personal bio?

Amie Williams, Executive Director and Co-Founder of GlobalGirl Media is an award winning producer/director specializing in film and video for NGO and international development organizations.

What problem are you solving?

GlobalGirl Media grew out of a coalition of women broadcasters and journalists from around the world who recognized that mainstream reporting too often focuses on flash points of violence, celebrity or disaster, while the everyday experience and voice of the invisible majority, particularly young women, passes silently under the radar. With the explosion of social media networking and user-generated content on the web, the fact remains that this media is only open to those who have access to these technologies, leaving many youth, especially young girls in at-risk or impoverished communities, falling hard into the digital divide.  We seek to address this disparity by supplying the equipment, education and support necessary to help young women become digital and blog journalists, bringing their own unique perspective to the global web.

What is one piece of advice you would like to offer someone doing similar work?

For anyone woman interested in working in Media, my advice would be to not be afraid to use your voice!  We so desperately need more women to voice their opinions and share their unique perspectives.

What is an experience you’ve had that has made you stay motivated in the work you’re doing?

Every day spent working with girls in LA, Morocco, and South Africa has been inspirational.  But most recently, in Morocco, GlobalGirl reporters covered the National Parliamentary elections in November, 2011. Reforms to Morocco’s Constitution increased political participation of women by setting aside 60 national seats for women. Watching young Moroccan GlobalGirl Reporters take an active interest in reporting on the value of women in government was extremely moving, especially in light of the present national elections in the United States.

How can people join you in what you’re doing?

There are many ways for you to become an active part of GlobalGirl Media.  If you’re a girl interested in social justice, women’s rights, storytelling, film, or journalism and you want to share your unique voice and perspective, we encourage you to write and report by whatever means you can.  If you live in one of the cities where we currently  hold media training (Los Angeles, CA, USA; Soweto, South Africa; Rabat, Morocco) we’d love for you to get in touch with us!  Also, stay tuned because we’re expanding to other cities around the world.  You can support us by donating through our website at www.globalgirlmedia.org and by sharing our stories with your friends.