What happens when a community of women get together to learn, teach, create, inspire, be inspired, collaborate, and network? Empowerment. And oh man (HA), was there a lot of it, thanks to the incredible energy, confidence, and intention manifesting at last week’s Power of Women Symposium, onsite at Studio.89 in partnership with Raine Network. The two-day symposium was filled with professional development workshops, mentorship sessions, wellness, conscious living, storytelling, and personal growth, plus we had an incredible female artisan market on-site on the Friday selling conscious goodies, from handmade Canadian jewelry, to non-toxic makeup, to fair trade leggings!
Whenever I lead these types of events, I always find myself getting emotional. I’m definitely a very emotional human, I cry during promotional videos for hotels and Disney, but the energy in the room is what made me burst into tears at the launch party for the symposium. After hosting a spoken word artist in the space to kick off the event, I decided to read a piece as well that I felt would fit perfectly with the flow of the evening. The piece was an old blog post that talked about my project work in Gajner back in January 2016, just over a year ago now. It spoke of Rekha and recently deceased Mamta, whom both found so much confidence and inspiration just from working on their English and learning to interact with outsiders - including myself and other foreigners. The thought of their progress, from the day we met to the day I left, brought tears to my eyes, as well as the thought that when I return hopefully later this year for a visit, my dear Mamta will no longer be there. I watched as my eyes became blurry and felt my throat began to swell. I stepped away from the microphone to let it flow. There was no stopping such emotion. After taking a moment to breath, I was able to finish the piece. I walked away from the microphone faking confidence and poise but felt nothing other than embarrassment. To cry in a public space? To cry in front of my colleagues? To cry over a blog post? I began to grow scared of my own tears and the reactions I would get once I faced the audience as I joined the crowd. I sat alone in the bathroom for a moment.
When I got home that evening, I retold the story to Herag. His reaction was very neutral, as if this was no big deal, like I’m totally allowed to be emotional over something that means so much to me. Rekha and Mamta were, and still are, the sisters I never had and the daughters I may never have. Not only is one of them now gone, the impact they have had on me and vice versa is so overwhelmingly huge, there is no way to define it except through the act of pure, raw emotion; in my case, tears.
This led me to thinking about how many times I’ve hid my emotions in public, at the thought of looking too weak, too young, or too female. As if showing a sign of weakness in the workplace makes me seem small, irrational, unbalanced and scared. Then I realized who I am, where I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going, how focused and determined I am and thought “why the fuck is there a stigma around women crying?” The amount of work a woman can bare is equal, and sometimes a lot more to that of a man. The ambition and drive we have to get things done, doesn't necessarily need to be more than a man's wants, but we feel we need to work harder to get what we deserve. When you've gone through trauma, experienced unconditional love, lost someone, and/or started something inspiring, why is crying an odd reaction, no matter your gender? I once saw a quote that said "crying isn't a sign of weakness. It's a sign of having tried too hard to be strong for too long". I should be recognized as a strong individual regardless of my emotion, and I refuse to be identified as a strong woman, I am simply just strong.
When I returned home the Friday night following the end of the symposium, I beamed ear to ear, and teared up thinking about how far I’ve come with my work with women. There is no such thing as one woman changing the world, there never will be, but when we come together to better each other and our communities, us women will be able to change the world, together.
Happy belated women’s day and women’s month to all the ladies around the world. May you rise up and seize the day, whatever the circumstance and whatever may be in your way.