Phenomenal Women (girl) – Anne Frank

One of the most distressing and compelling books that I read in my childhood was the Diary of Anne Frank.  Anne was born in Frankfurt, Germany and was held captive with her family during Nazi occupation.  The diary she wrote which was published posthumously shares her experiences of hiding with her family in the two years preceding their capture.

The diary is compelling because of its simplicity, written by a young girl there is an honesty and candour that both engages yet creates consternation as the tension and fear in some entries is almost palpable.

This entry from her diary demonstrates the optimism of youth which also creates a bittersweet, moment considering how well-known she has become.

I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist because that’s what I want! I know I can write …, but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent …

And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! …

I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!

When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”

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Phenomenal Women – Tarana Burke

Although you may not have heard of Tarana Burke her call to action is one that has been unavoidable in recent months.  Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement which has been the catalyst for revelations, recriminations, and retributions for years of systemic sexual abuse and harassment highlighted by recent high profile cases from within the entertainment industry.

Tarana was born in the Bronx, New York and is a tireless advocate and activist for human and civil rights.  As founder of the Me Too Movement, she has had and will continue to have an impact on victims of assault and abuse.

Here at WoK HQ, we talk about what more we can do to help women and girls to speak out against their attackers and abusers and get everyone to understand that they have a responsibility when it comes to abuse. For us there should be no bystanders, we should all stand in solidarity with those people who are brave enough to tell their story and utter the words “Me Too.”

Phenomenal Women – Rita Williams & Ramona Nedd

Today it is Mother’s Day in the UK, and it is also the 17th anniversary of the passing of my grandmother.  I only ever had one grandmother, so it was heartwrenching when she passed.  Her story is one of strength and resilience she was a domestic for rich plantation owners in Guyana and was descended from the indentured East Indian labourers who were duped into moving to Guyana after the abolition of slavery.  A single mother to 6 children she made immense sacrifices for the good of her family including sending my mom and her sister’s to live in a Catholic orphanage giving them the opportunity to have a good education and raise their aspirations.

My mother obviously got her work ethic from her mom, and she took the opportunities given to her through being placed in the Orphanage a focused student and avid athlete she balanced school work with netball, swimming, and cycling.  As soon as she could start working she sacrificed higher education to begin working to support her younger siblings and to enable her mother to stop working in other people’s houses.

So today I wanted to honour both these women who set the blueprint for the other women in our family, as one of my favourite quotes says,

“Here’s to all the strong women, may we know them, may we be them and may we raise them!”

 

Phenomenal Women – Diana, Princess of Wales

Today’s profile is may be a controversial choice, but we felt that it was important to look at the awesomeness of women from a range of angles.  The reason that we chose Princess Diana isn’t because she was a princess, but rather she was a symbol of womanhood that so many of us can relate to.  Her well documented failed marriage to Prince Charles and lurid headlines about her subsequent relationships struck a chord with us here because anyone who knows the pain of heartbreak can only imagine having to manage that pain in the public eye.

Being a mother to the future King of England was no mean task and then being ripped away from her children when they were so young is something that any mother can tell you is her worst nightmare.

But in addition to her sons, the true legacy she left behind was her compassion evidenced through her extensive charitable work.  A passionate advocate for AIDs charities long before it was acceptable to even talk about HIV and AIDS and long before legislation was enacted to provide protection from anyone afflicted with this disease she provided comfort and much-needed media attention to the human beings behind the stigma.  Her international charity work was also world-renowned, and it is for these reasons that we recognise her as a phenomenal woman.  Heres a piece of advice from the woman herself:

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”

 

50 Women: 50 Years

In 2016, we published a book about Guyanese women.  Today on International Women’s Day we wanted to celebrate the women who were part of that book.  The thought-process behind the book was that we wanted to showcase ordinary women leading extraordinary lives and use the book as a way to inspire the next generation and force this generation of women to step into their own spotlight and acknowledge their greatness.  To do this, we asked each woman three simple questions:

  1. What is your earliest/most significant memory of Guyana?
  2. What has been your greatest achievement/proudest moment?
  3. What words of advice would you give to other Guyanese women?

To say that we were blown away by the responses would be an understatement.  The inspirational quotes were insightful and uplifting, and the achievements of these women ranged from overcoming adversity, nurturing children, siblings and other family members to developing businesses and achieving academic success.

To build on the success of this book, we are proud to announce that we are opening calls for contributions to our second book which will be entitled “Women of Kaieteur – strength, grace, and endurance.  If you or someone you know want to be profiled in the book, please ask them to send to complete the attached form.

Why not grab a copy of 50 Women: 50 Years from Amazon and help us to continue our good work.  All funds raised are used to help women and girls in Guyana.

Phenomenal Women – Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto was twice elected to be Pakistani Prime Minister, first in 1988 and again in 1993.  Not only was she the first female Prime Minister in her native Pakistan but she was also the first woman to be head of a democratic Muslim nation.  Her achievements are even more notable because of the time during which she achieved them.  In recent times we have seen more acceptance for female heads of states, but years ago the battle was even harder.

As we near International Women’s Day we thought that a female political pioneer was a fitting profile to include in our Phenomenal Women series especially because as an accomplished and educated woman she proves one of the fundamental principles that Women of Kaieteur was built on.  “Education is key, with education doors will always open for progression”  We want every woman and girl to remember that the key to their success lies in education, both formally and informally.  Statistically, a woman who is skilled and/or educated will have an impact on so many lives including her own, her family and the community to which she belongs.

We particularly liked this quote from her demonstrating the strength of a woman:

“Being nice should never be perceived as being weak.  It’s not a sign of weakness,, its a sign of courtesy, manners, grace, a woman’s ability to make everyone ….. feel at home, and it should never be construed as a weakness.”

Phenomenal Women – Dr. Maya Angelou

Our fourth profile needs no introduction Dr. Maya Angelou was a critically acclaimed poet and author, a survivor, a civil rights activist and an inspiration to men and women alike. My introduction to Maya Angelou was at age 13 when I read the first part of her autobiography “I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings.”  The book changed my life, and I was suddenly hyper-aware of the privilege I had through my comfortable home and loving parents.  It made me grateful and determined because her story started with so much pain and yet she overcame this pain and arose as one of the world’s greatest female inspirations.

Born in 1928 to parents who eventually separated Maya was sadly raped at the age of 8 by her mother’s new partner.  She told her brother who raised the alarm with the rest of the family and when the man in question was only imprisoned for one day her relatives meted out their own brand of justice, and he was found murdered.  Convinced that it was her fault that her abuser was dead Maya stopped speaking as she was afraid that her voice caused harm.  As we know from her numerous appearances, she eventually found her voice and went on to use that voice as a force for good.

At Women of Kaieteur, we know that sexual abuse and interference are all too common and we always advocate for women and girls to use their voices to highlight injustice and help break the silence that often haunts victims.  One of our favourite quotes from Dr. Angelou is

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”