Today, on International Women's Day, it feels apt to have been sitting in a train carriage from Rabat to Marrakech with 5 international women speaking in three mother tongues.
Communication is one of our tools to express who we are but what happens when you don’t speak the same language, yet underneath your stories may be the same?
At times in Morocco, I’ve been surrounded by women (and men) who can speak several languages fluently, but only my mother tongue is my strongest, French is basic, and Darija, almost none.
A sudden accident where a suitcase fell from above onto my head, brought us all together in the train carriage, each wanting to reassure the other “I was ok”.
Despite the inability to understand every word of each other's language, we understood each other perfectly.
As I got my laptop out to type this, I looked at the young Moroccan woman in front of me reading J.D Salinger in French.
Then, to the lady in the hijab across from her, with her Louis Vuitton bag avidly typing on her smartphone the whole journey, yet also keeping tabs on her daughter, who looked too old to have been born from her limbs. Occasionally, she offered us all home-made biscuits with smiley faces on. She was part "mother", part "girl" still herself.
I recall the young lady beside me who wagged her finger at me, refusing the offer to read my "FDM" (Femmes Du Maroc) magazine as if it contained something strictly forbidden, or perhaps that was my judgement on that move.
Yet, an hour before, the elderly Moroccan, French woman earlier who'd declared she'd "once worked for the American Peace Corps and spoke English better, back then", couldn't wait to flip through the glossy pages.
I wondered, what does International Woman's Day mean to each of them?
What does it mean to me or you too?
I’m learning to understand, let go and adapt cultural stereotypes, as I soak up more and more of Moroccan culture, in both the rural villages and contemporary cities where woman of all “roles” go about their day and work.
Women who’s “job” is to be the home-carer. Women who run their own business or work for someone else's. Women who create goods to be exported by women they’ll never meet. Women who study and lecture. Women who are mothers and those who aren't. Sisters, lovers, friends, daughters, aunties and more.
Women who live traditional or contemporary lives, by choice.
We’re all going about our day. Each with our hearts pulsing, our minds racing, and desire raging for our lives and legacy to be meaningful, and for us to be valued, loved and seen.
When we strip away the veils, hijabs, cloaks and clothes, we stand as equal. Each, as strong as the other, even in vulnerability and weakness. Each, with their part to play in our society, and bigger world.
There are so many stories for us to share and to learn from. Women rejoicing in their womanhood, woman restricted, women tearing free from cultures they don't resonate with, and finding their path in new lands and homes.
I wish a world where the role you play is determined by your desire and destiny only, not influence, nor constraint.
I wish you the freedom to dream and to define who you are, and then have the courage and option to stand up always, as she.
If you have a group event today or this week for International Women's Day, consider sharing the questions with your group to prompt discussion. Add more questions you want asked.
- What does International Woman's Day mean to you?
- What does it mean to be a woman in the part of the world and society you live in?
- What privileges or challenges do we stereotypically and generically face?
- Which women are you inspired by in your local community, and globe?
- What are the "women's themes" that still need greater awareness in your opinion?
- What taboos related to the theme of women do you wish were broken?
- Which men do you find inspiring that are doing their part for women's equality?
- What woman's themes are impacting you most greatly in your home or work?
- Who's work do you admire in relation to women's rights and equality?
- What role or impact would you like to play in relation to women's rights, today?
Share your thoughts on our Facebook page if you like.
#InternationalWomensDay #IWD2016 #WomenEmpowered #Equality #WildWomenDo