International Women’s Day 2016

It is more than twenty years since I first set foot in the Philippines, a place I’ve come to look on as my second home. I still recall my impressions as a ‘thirty-something’, once I’d got past the shock of cockroaches and the heat, was of a nation of strong and courageous women. As a woman there have been times when I believed myself to be weak or insignificant, but as I look at those who’ve shaped my life I can see this was not the result of example but of media and cultural conditioning. My grandmother drove a lorry for her family business in the 1st World War, in the 2nd World War she opened her home to many whose wives and children had been evacuated. She chose to stay behind and stand with those who couldn’t go. My mother chose in her mid 20s to get out of an abusive and destructive marriage and bring up her 4 children alone knowing that the stigma of divorce was preferable to the lasting damage taking place.

Strong women have always been a part of my life and here in the Philippines I see women who work hard at whatever they can turn their hand to in order to feed their kids. I see young women working day and night to get an education so they can be part of the answer to so many questions. I see women not eating so their families can and I see women who refuse to be defined by their lack. They know their worth is more than the contents of their purse, that their beauty isn’t in jewels and the latest fashions but in the laughter they share as they serve one another and help care for those poorer than themselves. Their dignity isn’t judged by the house they live in but their own fierce independence and refusal to give in to poverty, injustice or discrimination. I know these women will cover my back, will laugh at my attempts at the language and will join with me as we work together to see others brought to a place where they too can believe in themselves. Women are strong, women are significant whatever their status or income, every woman deserves to be celebrated.

Allison Todd

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