When I think about strong women, I think of the women in Kudunkgwane, the South African village I lived in for two years. (Besides the women in my family, of course, who are exceptionally strong!)
There was a group of women who took ownership of my school garden project. They not only show up for workshops: they dug deep into the Kalahari soil to plant a garden, showed up during the school week and holidays to water and tend the garden, and even took new garden methods and created fantastic gardens at their homes.
These women, called “gogos”, which meant grandmothers, were some of the matriarchs in the village. Families ravaged by HIV/AIDS and a poor economy, they were left to care for their grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and possibly other various kids in the village. Often facing the loss of their husbands and children, either due to death or far-off jobs in the city, they were left alone. To care for children that often weren’t their own.
And they rose to the occasion.
Ignoring the brutal beating of the Kalahari sun, the fierce desert winds filled with sand, and the crushing weight of poverty, theses gogos worked hard to make life a little better for the children at the school. While most of them were beyond retirement age, they were strong beyond believe, digging into the hard desert soil with surprising energy.
They were oppressed, having grown up during the unbearable years of Apartheid, denied a decent education, and having watched the decimation of the generation of their children from HIV/AIDS. They had every reason to give in. Give up. Accept that life had been incredibly difficult, and likely wouldn’t change drastically anytime soon.
Yet they showed up. They grabbed spades, shoveled dirt, and planted seeds. Seeds of hope: hope in the form of vegetables to feed hundreds of hungry children. While it was just a drop in the ocean, their small efforts of relieving the sting of poverty and pain of hunger transformed a school. And that impact rippled out to change a village.
Today I put on my pearls in honor of these women, these impossible strong women, these gogos, who dared to make a difference. They are priceless.
Despite my dislike of selfies, today I’m posting one to remind myself that every woman is priceless, whether it’s a gogo in a Kalahari village, a woman stuck in modern-day slavery, or an uncertain girl in rural Iowa.
You are priceless.
Today is Global Giving Day, and I’m joining with hundreds of other women to #putonyourpearls in honor of oppressed women around the world. Women who have faced unspeakable tragedies in their lives. Because even though life has treated them harshly, there is always hope.
Check out She is Priceless to learn more, see partnering organizations, or donate for an incredible worthy cause. Or check out Kristen’s post about this day, and see how her life has been impacted by powerful women.
Would you consider donating to one of the organizations on this page? Because when oppressed women are empowered, nothing can stop them. Just like the gogos in my village who wouldn’t let a hard life keep them from changing their small corner of the world.
Because every woman is priceless.