Before I was 16 years old, I was growing up in a very strange environment. I was told that being a girl meant doing what you are told, shamefully hiding what makes you a woman and to make sure your aspirations don’t conflict with a man or interfere with the inevitable end goal of being married, having children and being a “good” wife. This also meant accepting maltreatment as your fault and not speaking up when you feel wronged or uncomfortable. Clearly, none of those teachings would have coincided well with my goals to record and produce music. It was quite a miserable world.
In the years leading up to turning 16, I was tuning in to numerous influential women: some famous women like Oprah who taught me that success does not wait for you to get over your past traumas and hardships and lesser known heroes like my 10th grade architectural design teacher, Ms Yakabowski, who taught me not to wait on a man to accept you or to worry about being a female in a male dominated industry.
At 16, I made the most courageous decision I had ever made in my life: to leave the narrow minded environment I was in. I called my aunt Esther in Toronto and asked if I could stay with her. There was no hesitation in her voice when she said yes, and after a tough battle with my parents to get emancipated, I was on a plane to Toronto.
It was through my aunt that I saw the world in the perspective of a strong woman. She had fled the atrocities of South Sudan, escaped the narrow-mindedness that I had also been subjected to, challenged and fought those that traumatized her and raised her children to become outstanding citizens in a world where it is so easy to fall into the cracks and become another statistic. Through her, I became fearless and learned to be proud to be a woman.
Today, we get to celebrate women all over the world, each with their own uniqueness and strengths. We get to reflect on the battles we’ve fought to have the freedoms and security we once didn’t get to have. We are still a long ways from complete equality, but I am excited to see how far we’ve come! I want to wish you all a Happy International Women’s Day.