I grew up in a family of pioneering women, in a state, which was ranked as the 49th lowest performing state for women in the U.S. (out of 50). Less than 24 percent of women from Louisiana go on to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher and at 12.5% we have the lowest percentage of women in our state legislature. But despite these indicators, there’s my maternal grandmother who worked as a nurse with her BSN, my paternal grandmother who has her Ph.D., and my mom who ran her own business. I recently learned that my great grandmother was the first person in her family to go to college and later abruptly left her small-town one school district as a teacher when she found out she wasn’t being paid equal to men. It was two women, Ms. Kelsey, my high school English teacher and Dr. Vanessa Bouche, one of my college professors who inspired me work internationally. I even chose my college major because of a woman, Senator Landrieu, who through a chance meeting when I was 8 years old ignited my interest in politics. I was lucky, despite coming from a location where statistically most women don’t graduate from college, for my family it was a priority and I didn’t face obstacles to receiving an education.
Before coming to India, I had only vaguely heard of International Women’s Day. However, upon the first March 8th I spent here, I realized that it was quite the celebration. Here, the women who inspire me most are the ones who may seem ordinary to some but are revolutionary in their families and communities. There’s my coworker, Shalet, who was the first person in her family to graduate from college and became a senior reporter at The New Indian Express before joining the NGO sector. Kalyani*, one of our students who was married at age 11 and has joined our center at age 30 in hopes of taking up her first job. Kavitha*, one of our interns, who despite familial pressures to not work and get married, worked at a large software company and is now pursuing her MBA.
In honor of this International Women’s Day, I was privileged to participate in a “roadshow” or march organized by one of our skills training centers to spread awareness about education women and about our program to develop skills and employ young adults. Carrying a loudspeaker playing Kannada tunes and proclaiming messages of equal education for women, we traversed the neighborhood, distributed roses and received quite a few smiles and well wishes in return. One women’s rights enthusiast we met, Mr. Leslie proclaimed, “Women are the best part of the country, if they are not coming forward, than the country will go backwards. You have to give full respect to women; they are the ones who brought people into the world. That’s the main thing!” Throughout my life and across the world, I have been fortunate to interact with numerous inspirational women and also men who champion the cause.
To see our Women’s Day roadshow in action, watch the video below:
 “STATUS OF WOMEN IN THE STATES” Institute For Women’s Policy Research (2015) Web. https://statusofwomendata.org/explore-the-data/state-data/louisiana/
*Names changed for confidentially reasons
The blog was first published in http://aif.org/2017/03/women-with-a-vision-celebrating-international-womens-day-2017/