Hey Jegnit, keep going. I am rooting for you.

When 50% women were appointed to ministerial positions in our country, what was the talk of the town?  “This man is joking.” I heard this over and over again, everywhere I went. People were mocking and some were laughing saying, “They went extreme with this whole equality belief.”  Some made jokes that I would rather not include in this writing. Why? No other reason—just because the people that were appointed are women. People know nothing about their qualifications or how hard they worked to get here.  They are not elected on the base of their gender, but with their demonstrated ability to lead in that position. I get really offended and take it too personal when anyone talks about women like that. My head tells me I’m next. 

Let me share with you one of my many personal encounters—this one is in the library—of society’s view of women.  I was studying at my usual spot and I guess someone that might have noticed me studying there often walked up to me and didn’t start the conversation with, “Hey, how are you doing? Keep it up.”  Not that I want anyone to say that to me, but if a stranger walks up to you in the library that could be a good way to start a conversation. This guy started with a line that kept thinking. What did he really mean to say?  What he said was clear: “Aren’t you a girl? Why do you even study so hard?” Not knowing how to answer I looked at him with confusion and said “What?” He said, “Yeah, seriously,” with an annoying grin, “You’re a girl. What would you do with knowledge?  You girls need a husband with money and should just look pretty for him.” Direct translation. I said, “Oh wow,” and went back to studying … but thinking of all the seriousness on his face I couldn’t help but think, “Wait, was he really serious? Do people still believe in that?”  I thought did he really think we, “girls,” don’t have dreams or are our dreams so invaluable?

Rupi Kaur, a Canadian poet, said, “I want to apologize to all the women I have called beautiful before I have called them intelligent or brave.  I am sorry I made it sound as though something as simple as what you’re born with is all you have to be proud of when you have broken mountains with your wit.  From now on I will say things like you are resilient, or you are extra ordinary not because I don’t think you’re beautiful but because I need you to know you are more than that.”  Today I want to say just that. 

How many times have we been told, “Aren’t you a girl? Do this…don’t do that,” or “Yeah, she did okay for a girl,” and many other statements that look down on us?  Knowingly or unknowingly people still make statements that really get to us; some women feel every line of these statements.  We feel the disrespect slap us on our faces. Many even turn to self-doubt from a moment like that. We feel as though those days are behind us but it is something we still face.  Every day.

I am inspired by all the brilliant women that have overcame countless challenges to get to where they are now.  I must give a round of applause for all those strong women that we get to look up to when we say, “I have a dream!”  These are women who had obstacles but most likely not many role models.  They made it. When the world says, “Wow, you dream too much,” they say, “That is just our stepping stone; we can achieve greater things.” They have excelled in many sectors and showed us that it is possible.  They showed us that our possibilities are endless and that we can make unimaginable things come true. 

I believe that currently many women are on their way to achieving their dreams and I won’t say there will not be obstacles.  There will be. This is why we, girls, have to put our cheerleading clothes on…that as children we might have been taught were to be worn to cheer for the guys as they play the game and win the trophy.  Now, we are going to wear the same uniform and route for the girls striving to excel. We need to recognize the fire in each other.  Take a few minutes from your day to appreciate her.  Tell her she is wonderful and that she inspires you. Tell her to keep going. Tell her you believe in her because not a lot of people say that to her.  She needs to hear this. “Hey, Jegnit, keep going. I am rooting for you!”

Written by: Debora Belachew