Friday, March 9, 2012

Women's History Month: Young Women Know Your Power

As we know MARCH is Women's History Month, a time when we celebrate and honor women for their achievements and their enduring spirit.  But, let's face it: women make things happen— not everyone knows as much about HOW women make history as they should.  But, we do know it's important to remember those who came before us, the CHALLENGES they faced and the BARRIERS they broke.  It's important, to SALUTE those who continue to break barriers and take on challenges, so that WE, may have access. 
I looked up this year’s theme for Women’s History Month:“Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment.”So, I want to spend a little time talking about HOW women are educated and empowered. I want you to REMEMBER the definition of “Empower” it is to give POWER or AUTHORITY to. "Empowerment."  Now, that's a positive and POWERFUL word.  We know that people are EMPOWERED when they can make full use of their TALENTS, and energy for the benefit of themselves, and their communities. So, MY TOPIC today is Young Women KNOW YOUR POWER.
I think about the women who were NOT given or even ENCOURAGED to utilize their talents. But, thanks to educational visionary leaders like Mary Lyon, Jane Addams, Ida B. Wells and Mary McLeod Bethune, women have not only CAUGHT up with men in college attendance, BUT, now women are more likely than men to have a college degree.  By educating women, our nations have dramatically expanded the workforce, the creativity, and the FINANCIAL resource base upon, which TRUE empowerment rests.
Pioneers of secondary education for young women faced ARGUMENTS from physicians and other “EXPERTS” who CLAIMED either that females were INCAPABLE of intellectual development equal to men, OR, that they would be HARMED by striving for it (Can you believe that?) I like to think we are harming ourselves by NOT striving for it. 
Young Women KNOW. YOUR. POWER!
Because of your ancestors you all were born with the POWER you need to be leaders in your fields.  Your EDUCATION has equipped you with the AUTHORITY to go out in the world and accomplish all your dreams and goals.  Young women KNOW your power!  I look at some of us today and we don’t value the education we are equipped with, but, we see it only as a means to an end.
Mary McLeod Bethune, was an EDUCATOR and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for African American students-Bethune-Cookman College.  Born to former slave parents and one of seventeen children she grew up picking cotton.  Though her parents and siblings were illiterate, Bethune knew as a child that she wanted to escape "the dense darkness and ignorance" in which she found herself. Her ambition to read was only FUELED by a white girl who once commanded her to put down a book, saying, "You can't read.”
As an adult, Bethune's influence soon extended far beyond the South. She was a gifted organizer and became a LEADER in the effort to build coalitions among BLACK women fighting for equal rights, better education, JOBS, and political power.  Through this work Bethune became close friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, who encouraged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to name Bethune, Director of the Office of Minority Affairs in the National Youth Administration in 1935. Mary McLeod Bethune LUNCHED frequently with Mrs. Roosevelt in the White House.  Hmm, you mean to tell me Ms.Bethune went from working in the cotton fields, to LUNCHING with the president in the White House.
Young Women KNOW. YOUR. POWER!
I would love to tell you all that you are judged and promoted based only on your hard work and your ability to get the job done.  But, the truth is you have to be TENACIOUS, build good relationships and have perseverance.  Everything you need is inside of you, your EDUCATION will get you in the door, but, you have to have a plan and give your time and talents where they matter the most.
As you all continue your journey to success I want to equip you with a few life lessons:
1. Ask question-You won’t know until you ask, there is no shame and not knowing
2. Giving is receiving- Give your time and talents- Volunteer, mentor someone, etc
3. Choose your friends wisely- If you are the smartest person in your circle it’s time to change circles
4. Mistakes happen, THEN you move on- Don’t be self-defeated, everyone makes mistakes
5. You will find a way to do what you really want- There are an abundance of resources, someone will help you but first you have to help yourself.
6. Learn to have solidarity amongst different groups- You will open your eyes to a whole new world
7. Build each other up instead of tearing each other down- I am not my sisters keeper, I am my sister - Iyanla Vanzant
"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood."
Marie Curie

Written by The BOSS Network founder Cameka @iamCameka  Smith 

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