To my Fellow Women,
Growing up in the Philippines as a little girl, I did not have many role models. My parents were busy working. So, we can make ends meet. They had to. We lived in a third world country. Life was tough. As the oldest, I had to grow up fast. I must be independent and responsible. Looking back, what does an 8-year-old girl really know? In my culture, it is a taboo to question things. It was not a “thing”. As a female, we are meant to be quiet and just accept the things that happen to us whether it is unfair. As I grew up to become a young adult, that silence followed me. I grew up with it. This is what I was accustomed to. I was told to follow and obey. No questions asked. I was okay with it because this is something that I am used to. It was something that I never questioned. As a little girl growing up in the Philippines, I cannot have an opinion. If I do have one, I must keep it to myself. If I have an idea, I will need to keep it to my imagination. I will not lie, I had so many questions. I sometimes would look at the ceiling of our home and wonder. There was that spark in my eyes that always wanted to ask and speak up.
After so many years, we made it as a family. We immigrated to New York City. We were leaving everything behind to start a new life in the land of opportunity. I remember arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City and all I see are different diversities. It was spring season when we arrived in the Big Apple. I remembered the smell of rain mixed with the air of the city. I can hear the hustle and the bustle from the baggage claim. I was a teenager when I migrated to New York City. I was happy. I had different emotions running through my mind. A change waiting for me.
A new start. A new chapter in my life as a woman. Here we are the land of the free. The opportunity to finally ask some questions. I found New York City to be the place where I can speak up and give out my opinions. But it was easier said than done. Silence and fear overcame me. High School in New York City was tough. I did not speak English very well. I can comprehendbut I am unable to explain myself. I was scared. I felt like I was back where I came from. Unable to speak up. Unable to ask questions. It was so bad that I did not speak to anyone in my sophomore English class for 4 months. The teacher had to talk to my mother and informed her about her concern with me not talking. I remembered that night when my mother scolded me for not talking. The irony of that conversation still stuck in my head.
Then, I finally started U.S History. It was very foreign to me. But it educated me. It informed me about equality. I learned about women and the fight that they must go through just to be able to vote. The fight that women had to endure. It made me realize that I do not have to live in silence. learned that my opinions matter. I found out that I can express my ideas and have a respectful argument. It gave me the courage to speak up. I will not lie; it did not work in our household. When I come home, I must keep it to myself. It was a battle inside of me. It was rough and tough especially for a teenager who just moved to a new country.
Years passed, I got married and I had a daughter of my own. I was 21 years old when I had my daughter. I was 21 years old when I married the love of my life and high school sweetheart. I promised myself that I would raise my little girl with a voice. I promised myself that my little girl will be able to ask questions. I wanted her to grow up in a household where she could respectfully ask questions. I did not want her to be afraid to explore her imagination. It was tough. But I know I had to be an example. I wanted her to have someone to look up to. I did not have anyone growing up as a role model. Instead, I was told to keep it to yourself. I knew how that felt as a little girl. I knew how it felt when I became a teenager that it resonated all the way when I became an adult. I wanted that change. This change needs to come from me. I have this little girl relying on me to be her voice. I cannot be the voice if I cannot speak up and express myself.
All these memories and emotions came flooding back again when I read Hilary Clinton’s speech at the UN Fourth World Conference in Beijing titled “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”. Reading it made me think about all the women in the world. There was this part of her speech that resonated with me. She stated, “Our goals for this conference, to strengthen families and societies by empowering women to take greater control over their own destinies”. As women, we should not be afraid to take over our future. Do not let anyone tell you cannot do what you aspire for. As women, we were trained to be the one taking care of our family. We should be the nurturer. We should sacrifice our own needs because this is what society expects us to do. But this is not right. Hilary Clinton made a valid point on her speech, and I quote “What we are learning around the world is that, if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations will flourish”.
To my fellow women, I admire you, I believe in you. I am proud of you and the things you have and will accomplish. Do not let anyone silenced you. Do not be afraid to share your voice. Be brave and courageous. Women should be able to thrive in a society where they are given a chance. Women plays a big part in the society. When we are healthy and supported, we will be able to be a good role model for the younger female. We will be able to give them the support that they need for higher education. If women are given a chance, we can excel in everything we do and aspire for. As women, let us work together for a common goal. We may be different in skin color, or we come from different backgrounds. But we still have the same common goal. Instead of tearing each other, help each other. We all have something to offer. As women, let us work together for a better future for the next generation. This is what I aspire for my daughter. I want her to always remember that she can be whatever she aspires to be. As Hilary Clinton quoted in her speech, “We need to understand that there is no formula for how women should lead their lives. That is why we must respect the choices that each woman makes for herself and her family. Every woman deserves the chance to realize her God-given potential”.