Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nothing is Impossible

Guest Blogger- Celia Thompson 

Celia Thompson is the Chief of American Citizen Services.  She has served as a Foreign Service officer since 2005 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Mrs. Thompson trained as an Educator at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas and taught English in Thailand, South Korea, Colombia, and Ethiopia before joining the Foreign Service.  She speaks Thai, Swedish, Amharic, and Spanish.

 Last week, I traveled to Bhubaneshwar, the capital city of Orissa (aka Odisha), to take part in two exciting events for International Women’s Day. It was the 100th anniversary of this important holiday, and I felt greatly honored to get to speak about the women’s empowerment movement around the world. As the proud mother of two young beautiful intelligent daughters, Girl Power is something I strongly espouse.

The first event was put on by an NGO, and it featured a panel of diverse, distinguished women from Orissa: a human rights activist, a gynecologist who’s famous for her poetry, an Odissi dancer, a newspaper editor, a social worker, a university professor, and a director of a women’s college. We were all there to celebrate the launch of a new weekly newspaper called Janaani, meaning the Voice of Women. The exchange of ideas and opinions by the guests and the audiences was fascinating. 

Although I don’t speak Oriya, the panelists on my left and right graciously translated for me so that I could follow the main ideas. Topics included female foeticide, suicide, unmarried men and women cohabitating, the need to educate women in English medium schools, and discrimination against girls in the classroom.  I was greatly inspired by these women who spoke about topics dear to my own heart. It was heartening to meet Indian women who share my concern with the status of women.  It was also inspiring to meet women who do more than talk about the issues – they are turning words into actions and making an impact.

From there, I moved on to the second event. It was a meeting of women at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, an impressive facility that educates 16000 students and hosts the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, a boarding school that offers 12000 tribal children a free academic and vocational education. I spoke to a packed auditorium of women including college students, high school students, and university professors and administrators. 

After delivering a brief speech from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I opened the floor to questions. They wanted to know what I thought about the “invisible glass ceiling.” They asked about pay disparity between men and women in similar jobs in the U.S. It was the most exciting event I’d ever attended in my six years as a Foreign Service Officer. The women were eager to know more about women in the U.S., and I was delighted to talk about how far we have come in a brief period of time. 

I also told them how proud I was of American and Indian women’s efforts, and how the only limits we have in our struggle for female empowerment are the limits we place on ourselves. Women have come so far in the world, but we still have far to go. If women in India and women in the U.S. work together to advance the cause of Women’s Rights, nothing is impossible.

No comments:

Post a Comment