Women. Phenomenally, phenomenal women

Oprah has Gayle, Beyonce has Kelly, Barack has Michelle. I have my mum.

We need to look up to and applaud those women who manage to break out of this cycle of abuse.
We need to look up to and applaud those women who manage to break out of this cycle of abuse.

Women play a very important role in the development of others and society in general. A community that builds women is well on its way to prosperity – one that steps on the rights of women and their dignity is prone to disaster.

As South African freedom icon Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. Our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.’

Women who have made decision to depart from their homeland are influenced by various reasons. Some leave because of female genital mutilation. Others are running away from forced marriages. Many want to feel empowered, so that they can change their lives and the fate of their children for the positive. They gather the courage to stand up to oppressive cultural practices like ‘wife inheritance’. Such choices put their lives in danger forcing them to flee in search of security.

The migratory journey across Africa and elsewhere is gruelling even for the toughest of men. It clearly shows what a strong and determined woman can achieve when women arrive on shores like Malta’s after such a journey. They carry with them hopes and aspirations for a better future even if they have been to hell and back through the journey here.

Most of them experience rape and torture in the hands of traffickers on their way here. However they are ashamed of speaking about what they have gone through, afraid of the stigma attached to these events. They suffer in silence, sinking deeper into the trap that comes with abuse.

We need to look up to and applaud those who manage to break out of this cycle. We also need to stretch out our hands to help the others make the first step out of this dark hole. The sad reality though is that most women today pull other women down, instead of lifting them up to greatness. This is evident from the corner office where some women sabotage others to migration where women judge instead of understanding what would trigger a woman to leave her country.

The Sahara Desert is a place where survival for the fittest is truly put to the test. The heat is unbearable during the day, leading to dehydration. Water becomes more precious than platinum as people scramble to wet their dry throats.

In my journey, I was desperately thirsty at one point and I fully knew that I would never be able to gather enough courage to walk up to the traffickers to plead for water. What happened next would inspire me and send shivers down my spine in equal measure. Two women from our group put their feet down and demanded water from the traffickers. They stood their ground even when the traffickers threatened to physically abuse them. The traffickers gave up after some time, giving them a jug full of water. The women walked up to me and I was able to take my first sip of water in a couple of days.

I was already lucky enough to be raised by my mum, a strong woman of character. But this incident further opened my eyes to the strength and caring nature of women – traits they don’t let go of even during times of hardship.

Instead of looking at them as people who have broken the law for coming here undocumented, migrant women should be given the opportunity to pursue an education. “When you educate a girl, you educate a nation” – it’s opening doors for them, like starting and managing small and medium enterprises, that gives such women a choice. It’s a choice to say no to abuse, a choice to educate their children, a choice to break the cycle of pain and poverty among many other things.

My mother, although uneducated, used to have a problem with women who would set themselves a sort of limit to what they achieve. They would say, “I will have ‘arrived’ when I finish my education, get married, have kids…” When I look at it today I understand her point. This kind of bar-setting deprives women of the much-needed energy to break the glass ceiling. And it’s the same case with migrant women who think their problems are solved just by arriving on Europe’s shores. Yes, they took back the torch to light up their lives when they said ‘no’ to the different oppressive situations they were in – but they need to grab that courage with both hands and go after what they want now. I know it’s easier said than done, but the end result will deliver them to a place of fulfilment.

To those who judge a book by its cover: next time you put on your favourite pair of denims and red lipstick, grab you car keys and smartphone, think about the woman who walked for miles in search of clean drinking water. Think about the woman suffering abuse from the man in her life. Think about the woman who earns a one-way ticket to her grave just by trying to get an education.

It’s in the click of my heels,   

The bend of my hair,   

the palm of my hand,   

The need for my care.   

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Maya Angelou

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