Today is International Women’s Day, and I am so grateful that my journey over the past few months has included being able to be with and celebrate incredible women all around the world. I just returned from a trip to Mumbai and Goa, India, where I met and spent time with some extraordinary women.
Before that, I was in Brazil and Argentina for most of the month of January. There, I had the joy of spending time with my favorite “little woman” in the world, my seven-year-old niece Luna, who is such a little “Mom” and helper and thoughtful, considerate little girl already.
And, I got to spend time with my incredible Mom and sisters in Argentina. They are some of the most extraordinary women I know!
Today I am finding happiness in celebrating women everywhere, and wanted to share some stories of some of the incredible women who have crossed my path lately.
The Beautiful Women of Goa, India!
The colorful picture above was taken at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in the former Portuguese colony of Goa, India. I had walked through the magnificent cathedral, and was upstairs in the art gallery when one of these beautiful women approached me.
She wanted her photograph taken with me. We posed together, but a security guard in the art gallery asked us to please not take photographs inside the basilica.
So we waited until we were outside and then this entire beautiful family gathered for a picture with me, the strange, alien-esque pale blue-eyed redhead from a far-away land. They handed me the baby, and everyone lined up around me.
Afterwards, each of them patiently waited their turns, one by one, to take an individual photograph with me. Everyone was smiling and laughing, giddy with happiness.
It was such an incredible moment, such a celebration of life and womenhood and togetherness and beauty. I told each woman that she is beautiful, and their smiles radiated pure joy and light.
I was lucky enough to be somewhere where differences are celebrated. No one was afraid of how different I am, as people sometimes can be when someone’s religion or skin color or belief systems are different than their own.
Instead, they rejoiced at the chance to share some precious moments together and to capture this magical moment for eternity for all of us.
I was so honored to be able to share time with these beautiful women, each of whom was a jewel to me. The incredible bright colors and fabrics of the women’s saris in India are dazzling.
It is a culture that puts an emphasis on color and beauty. I love being there and dressing up in colorful clothing myself, knowing that in India it is not only accepted by celebrated to proudly wear every color of the rainbow.
This is not a culture of black t-shirts and jeans, and it’s refreshing to enjoy such a celebration of female beauty, color and life.
Celebrating the Women In My Family!
I am fortunate to have an amazing mother who is probably my greatest role model for being a thoughtful, loving generous human. My mom is one of these people who somehow seems to anticipate everyone’s needs before they do; who restocks the refrigerator when each adult child visits my parents’ home with whatever that adult child most loves to eat; who never forget a birthday or important occasion and makes them all special; who not only sits at the bedside of a friend with cancer but often has been the one to coordinate end-of-life care for friends, since my mom had decades of experience in health care.
I gave up trying to be my mom or comparing myself to her years ago, thankfully, because I honestly don’t know how she always manages to do so much for others while still balancing all of her own responsibilities (which over the years included raising five children, managing the household finances, doing the shopping and cooking, working full-time, earning her PhD while doing all of this, and more!).
My two incredible sisters are both extraordinary women. My youngest sister, Margaret, lives and works on an organic farm in Whitefish, Montana. She also helps run a seed company, while doing all kinds of interesting projects around town, and also managed to become a state champion dart player along with her girlfriend Annie.
My middle sister, Carrie, lives with her husband and three beautiful children in the resort paradise town of San Martin de Los Andes, right in the Andes mountains, close to the Chilean border, in southern Argentina.
Carrie is a registered nurse who also practices cranial sacral therapy, also her work for many years has been online marketing work and owning and managing real estate, which allows her to live and work anywhere in the world.
My gorgeous niece Luna is the littlest lady in the family, and the one who really owns my heart. She has been my little “BFF” (best friends forever!) since she could walk and talk.
Last summer, I treated her to her first “girls’ day” ever when she visited the family at my parents’ beach house in Southern Jersey. She got her first manicure, I got a pedicure, we walked around, shopped and went to Starbucks.
She later excitedly told my sister Carrie that, “We had more fun than anyone in the world! And if anyone thinks they had more fun than us, they are wrong!”
Amen, Luna! We always have the most fun.
I celebrate Luna and her future as a girl and women. May she grow up in a world in which women’s rights are prioritized more and more and in which women truly have equal rights to their male counterparts.
Still So Much Work to Do!
I read these startling statistics earlier today, shared by Beth Kanter:
In 2016 half a billion women still cannot read, 62 million girls are denied the right to education and 155 countries still have laws that differentiate between men and women. It is an outrage that girls account for 74% of all new HIV infections among adolescents in Africa, and 40% of women on the continent suffer from anemia which results in 20% of maternal deaths. 2016 is the year that real money and reforms must start to right these wrongs. The One Campaign has launched an open letter signed by 86 leading voices for women around the world. The open letter, to which people can add their own signature at one.org/letter, will be delivered to President Obama and other world leaders is intended to draw attention to the need for more investment in women and girls around the world. In addition, ONE members will also be on Capitol Hill on Tuesday meeting with lawmakers to advocate for specific policies that would address these problems.
We have come so far and still have so far to go! May we all do our part to celebrate and empower women and girls around the globe, now and always.
Lisa Graham is an inspirational writer, life coach, motivational speaker, and globe-trotter whose passion is to help others to find happiness and meaning their daily lives. A political activist at heart, Lisa would like to empower more women to run for political office as a way to create positive change in the world. You can find her on the Madam President Project.