One time, she came home and gave me a smaller version of this image that I soon prized and examined it closely from my kid bunkbed. For what seemed like hours, I made up stories about each face: Who was she? What must she be thinking? Where was she going? This beautiful cornucopia of faces represented women of every color, size and age imaginable from all parts of the globe. I later discovered that Mom’s working colleague LaVern Phillips created the montage in 1971 and it served as a program cover for Global Women’s Forum events, held mostly during the United Nations’ Decade of Women. The montage kept me intrigued and centered. And, it set me to wondering, too. How
will I and other women in our time link up and make a difference
in the world?
Mother returned from trips for what seemed like just enough time to do laundry, grab a meal and then go back out into the world. However, she was careful to share stories about her travels with her three daughters during Monday night family gatherings--
meeting women like these faces in the art form, experiencing their cultures, seeing their limited resources and learning how they got to the heart of issues facing their families and
For example in El Bayed, Egypt, it was the village’s women who persisted and demanded clean water. A parasitic liver fluke in the Nile River ravaged the villagers’ health, resulting in highmortality from Bilharzia/ Schistosomiases. Three things had to be dealt with (1) installing Villages latrines, (2) picking up the host snails of the flukes and burning them weekly and (3) digging for clean water wells, since water from the Nile River was polluted. It
was women who organized and encouraged everyone to tackle these not-so-easy solutions.
A few miles north of the equator in the Pacific on a small atoll called Majuro, Mom witnessed women create a preschool for their children and for their future nation’s self-reliance. They understood that exporting more smoked coconut (copra, their only export) would never be enough to launch a new nation. These women worked together to create a preschool for their children. News of the preschool in a corner of copra warehouse on
Majuro quickly spread to outlying atolls and islands. Villagers came and watched. The preschool was duplicated miles away in half a dozen locations. Creativity ignited. More options for training future leaders began. Today, preschools are more common throughout the nation called The Republic of the Marshall Islands (as of 1994) and a community college is located on the Laura islet of the Majuro Atoll. As ocean waters rise, the Marshallese call upon their creativity for survival again.
In our own country, I take pride and am grateful that an additional 100 plus women serve today in the House of Representatives and Senate of the United States. Having more
women participating and leading in government and in all sectors of business and community continues changing our world into a more respectful, productive, innovative and inclusive space in the universe. I’m reminded of the words from a song: “She changes
things she touches and everything she touches changes . . . “
On this International Women’s Day, I pause in celebration of all of the women who came before us, live among us and continue to shape who we are and who we want to become. While I am not entirely sure what compelled my mom to be of service in her way,
I am so very proud to have witnessed her compassion and drive to support other women making positive and meaningful differences in their lives, so they in turn can do so for others--a legacy that I hope to continue during my lifetime.