Friday, 8 March 2013

Women's Day - a tale of gratitude

Congratulations ladies!
International Women's Day today, and the first thing that came to my mind was gratitude. Gratitude for my life as it is, for the present, for the past and gratitude for the women who fought for what they believed in, so that I could freely choose my education and how I wanted my life to be.

I am grateful for Gina Krog. She was one of Norway's most prominent voting rights activists. In 1885 she launched the first association for women's voting rights, and 5 years later the Parliament considered a proposal to let women vote. It was rejected with 70 to 44 votes, and an argument against was: giving women the right to vote would damage family life and conflict with women’s natural calling. So - oh fear - the traditional home life would be in danger! So, I am grateful that Gina Krog and her fellow campaigners never gave up, and they must have been both strong and persistent and a bit stubborn..

In 1913 the women's struggle to vote ended in victory. 11 June this year we can celebrate that it is 100 years since Norway got full women's suffrage! That was, by the way, 99 years after Norway in 1814 had adopted a constitution establishing that the country should be ruled by its people. Did you know that Norway was the 2nd country in Europe and the 4th in the world to get full women's suffrage?

Gina Krog - pics from Nasjonalbiblioteket
I am grateful for Cecilie Thoresen. She was the first Norwegian female university student. In 1882, when women were not allowed to study, she applied to the Ministry for permission to study, but it was denied. Did she give up? Nope. She teamed up with a politician and they submitted a proposal to the Parliament, and she was given permission to study at a university. What a pioneer!

I am grateful for growing up with strong and great female role models: my grandmothers, my grand-aunts, my mother, my aunts, other relatives and friends. I am grateful that I did not have to fight for the right to go to school or university. I am grateful for growing up in a country where my options were wide open. I could choose freely, and I did. Thanks to the pioneers- who bravely opened (or- shall we say: "kicked in") the doors for the women-to-come.

It is strange then, to celebrate International Women's Day in India. A different scenery, a different culture, a different setting, other challenges, but the women - the strong women- they are everywhere! The women who fight their own battles, their everyday challenges. The women who stand up for their daughters, who will support them and who will hug them and say "You can do it!". And when it comes to education, I have seen how some mothers look at their daughters with this proud I-know-smile:  "She will make it!" No matter how crazy their dream is, their mothers will support them!

I am sure you may have noticed that my passion here is for education - and especially education for girls. I am grateful that I have been allowed to try to make a difference. To contribute a little bit. So, one day every week I spend in the slum and I meet Kirti, Priyanka and Tara - young girls with their dreams and hopes. Just like I had, when I was a little girl. And I think: they are the future for India! Oh, it must be possible for them to choose their education and their own way in life too! And like I had mine pioneers, I hope that they will have theirs - you know - the brave, stubborn door-kickers! Let us celebrate them today!

And finally, I am grateful for every single wonderful woman I have met during my life! My strong and wonderful sister, my childhoodBFF, old friends, new friends, colleagues, x-colleagues, family and friends in Norway, in Greece, in India, in US, in Bangladesh... - and everywhere else! I am so grateful that you are in my life!

Happy International Women's Day 2013!

The future of India:-)

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