I have spent the last two months in and out of surgeries with my eldest daughter, and days ago watched her younger sister go under the knife for a hip surgery.
They know that I am writing this, because I respect their privacy and we discussed it together and they encouraged me to write. They understand that going through medical challenges and fighting to survive and heal is something to be proud of.
I have watched my daughters care for one another. My youngest daughter studied the nurses with her sister, and then assisted the next time. I saw how all my girls so easily stopped everything and put each other first, and felt the joy of being of service to those they love.
I also watched them their face fears with a resolute bravery. We all know that moment when no one else can help us, and all we can do is close our eyes and breathe. When only we can take the next step or breath through the pain, so we steady ourselves and do it.
Their brothers were there for them, supportive and sweet. But on this International Women’s Day, writing from the hospital, I find myself focusing on my daughters for a moment, and all that I have learned from them and other young girls I have met around the world.
Someone said to me, when they saw my daughters caring for each other, that “it comes naturally to girls.” I smiled, but then I thought of how often that notion is abused. The little girl is expected to take care of others. The woman she grows up to be will be expected to give, and care for, and sacrifice. Girls are often conditioned to think that they are good only when they serve others, and selfish or wrong if ever they focus on their own needs and desires.
Little girls’ softness, their openness and instinct to nurture and help others, must be appreciated and not abused. We must do much more to protect them, in all societies: not only against the extreme ways girls’ rights are often violated, but also the more subtle injustices and attitudes that so often go unnoticed or excused.
So my wish on this day is that we value girls. Care for them. And know that the stronger they grow, the healthier they will be and the more they will give back to their family and community.
And my message to girls is, fight on, little ladies. Your care for each other will be a large part of your way forward. Hold your nerve. Know your rights. And never let anyone tell you that you are not precious and special and, above all, equal.