SO, I was going to write a blog today about a phenomenon called ‘community feet’, which turns out isn’t that much of a blog, because it can be described in a PICTURE (oh, technology, what you do for me), which you can see below:
The mind blowing part is that I had washed my feet twice the day this picture was taken. But when your schedule takes you to four different schools in one village, all about a 20 minute walk from each other, on dirty roads, and you have impromptu games of football with children (the football is actually a bunch of plastic bags wrapped with duct tape…I should get a picture of one to share…) and you also work with Shimoni Environmental Agency making alternative charcoal out of coconut shells (again, this would be a great time for another picture…)
OK, you get the point, and I guess there actually is a pretty interesting story that goes along with the dirt on my feet. However, I really want to expand upon what I was writing about yesterday. After some great discussion with my fellow GVI members and some private contemplation on the matter of women covering their heads and bodies to respect their religious beliefs, I feel that I have a lot more to say. DISCLAIMER : What I’m saying in no way reflects Islam as a religion, or Muslim people as a culture, in general. I am merely reflecting how I view the women of Shimoni village, a village that relies mostly on fishing as a means of making a living, a village that can be described as conservative (albeit a relative term), and a village of which the majority of its inhabitants identify as Muslim.
This is how I walk into the village everyday, I think I look pretty cool...
Moving on. So the question that I’m after, and that what people who have read this seem to want an answer to, is “Is the empowerment of women hindered or helped by the fact that they have to cover their heads, shoulders and knees?” I have to admit I don’t have an answer to that in ANY WAY. Because, I have seen a lot of un-empowered women in the free world, let me tell you. For example, is this an empowered woman? Is this?
These are two very obvious extremes, but they illustrate my point. How can we tell how strong, how smart, how worldly, how creative, how beautiful, how hard-working, how loving a woman is by just looking at her? I know a few women in the village, a few very strong and smart and beautiful women, and they inspire me more than any ‘regular’ woman I have ever met in the states. They have next to nothing. I mean, they are the people you hear about living on less than $2 a day. They have children, husbands, homes to care for…and yet they volunteer teach, they come to GVI’s outreach programs, they come to the women’s group to learn. A woman came to our adult environmental education course out of her own time and she was at first shy, but then she was taking notes and even said to me she would love to use this knowledge to become a community facilitator. It gave me chills to hear her say that, it took a good amount of teeth clenching not to yell “You go girl!!!!”
I remained professional, but just thinking about it now makes me giddy. Women are fucking awesome. I’m sorry, but they are. And they are here in Shimoni. When I see a woman here, she is carrying 15 gallons of water on her head, nursing a child, washing clothes, and she stands tall. She looks at me in the eyes and dares me to say hello first. She welcomes me into her home and offers me chai and asks me about my life in America. She is my friend, and she is my equal. I guess I have my answer after all.