Women are the foundation of our society. From the moment girls are born, the love and support from family helps them evolve into strong, confident and caring women.
Yet, fear and suffocating religious customs and cultural beliefs prevents this from happening in many parts of the world. Across the world these precious members of our society are being raped, killed, sold into slavery, struggling on minimum wages and being victimized by their male partners. They are trapped in poverty and held captive.
Over the years, my female patients have revealed the pain of sexual assault, incest and intimate partner violence. Women in the military who are serving our country and looking for a better life are being victimized. Even on college campuses where women are supposed to be safe, sexual assault is happening and being mishandled.
Women have worked and completed their education while raising their children alone. Many are caring for aging parents. While we debate minimum wage, crippling student loan debts, and abortion; we are losing sight of the importance of these issues to the number of women who are struggling to get out of poverty.
Studies show that girls raised by working are confident, have higher levels of education, earn more money and are more likely to be in supervisory roles. There are daily assaults on our confidence from bullying by peers and even adults. I am really against Facebook shaming. This latest incident proved me right. Fathers play a critical role, if they are present, in the development of a girl’s self-esteem. A betrayal can have devastating and even deadly consequences.
My uncles took the place of my father who did not have the stability to provide support emotionally or financially. Each of my mother’s brothers made it a point of always letting me know they cared. One uncle took me to my first concert. Another taught me to fold sheets and make a bed with military style corners. He made sure we cleaned the house to perfection before he left for his night shift. My mother, worked days and had a long bus ride home. We felt pride when she came home to a clean house. When I came home from college and later medical school for visits, their faces were all I needed to see. They beamed with pride. My uncle still to this day wants to know how I am doing and loves to hear stories about my patients. It was my way of letting him know how I was progressing. I would tell him about a difficult case and how I made the diagnosis.
Teachers are critical to the creation of a supportive environment in the classroom for all students. My teachers taught well and expected us to do well. I never heard that I could not go to medical school. My minister and my church was supportive. In my church, I was praised for making the honor roll and graduating with honors. No one ever said that I could not afford to go to college or medical school. They all acted as if that was what I was destined to do. They just said, I would make a good doctor. I was in the class of 1983 from Meharry. Our class had, at that time, the highest number of females to ever graduate from the school.
The joint win of the Nobel Peace Prize by Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi highlights the importance of the need to support the education of girls and prevent the exploitation of children world-wide.
Women can be scientists, make important contributions to science and win a Nobel Prize without being a distraction in the lab. We can be a CEO of a major company and bounce back with grace after a tragic loss and be an inspiration to us all. We can produce and direct movies and as an actor redefine beauty and body-image by not falling victim to all the hype. Let’s not forget launching a television network.
As we struggle through this 2016 presidential campaign and have the opportunity to elect a woman as President, it is disheartening to hear the petty issues that are being discussed. As women, we should demand discussion of the issues that are important and not whether a woman has the ability to be President. The answer is yes we do have what it takes to lead a country: yes, she does. It is important for our girls to hear that. message. The global issues affecting women are education, unemployment, poverty, war, physical and sexual violence, abortion, and family planning.