Strong Like A Woman

Last month, I brought five young Malagasy ladies to Antananarivo for the National GLOW Camp. GLOW is a Peace Corps initiative standing for Girls Leading Our World. The week long girls’ empowerment training was coordinated by a group of third-year PCVs and represented 8 regions and 4 dialects within Madagascar. This poem is inspired by that experience, and by all the amazing girls and women at my site.

she balances babies and basketballs; walks barefoot in the mud. runs, no sports bra, not afraid of her body. that body gives life.

Photo credit: Kamaka Dias

she copies lessons, stands up in class, asks and answers the questions. she does not lower her voice.she feeds her parents, her siblings, herself. cooks rice on open flames, cleans pots with sand, her feet the pumice, her heels digging in.she rides her bike to rice fields; she plants and plants and plants. pulls buckets of water from the well, balances on her head. children follow. one day they’ll do the same.she holds hands and giggles, laughs, flirts, bats her eyes. wears perfume. can be shy. or is it mysterious?she cries. and if someone dies, she wails–not just for herself, but for all women and all men because men aren’t supposed to cry. she leads. she follows. sings, teaches. teaches me. dreams. She is my teacher. my role model. best friend and confidant. disciplinarian, idol. not strong like a man. she is not one. She is strength, itself. strong like a woman.

“Tsy fanaka tsy malemy.” Translation: women are not soft furniture. Photo credit: Stephanie Sang

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