“I raise up my voice-not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
― Malala Yousafzai
Wow – “…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” That part of Malala’s statement has played over and over in my head since I first heard it. So many men in this world have achieved incredible things, but can you imagine if only half of the humans on the planet fulfilled their potential? That’s why, today, I will be sharing with you four world-changing women from the past and present.
Mother Teresa: Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Humanitarian
“ Agnes’ “ father passed away suddenly when she was young. Her mother was deeply religious and compassionate, and despite not being wealthy, she instilled the value of giving into her daughter. A biography (cited below) shares that her mother counseled her, “My child, never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others.” Once she completed her vows as a nun, she officially became “Mother Teresa.” Her initial dedication through her work was to teach young girls and provide them education as a way out of their poverty. It was through a strong second “calling” she felt placed in her heart that she was to work in the slums of Calcutta, India providing aid to the sickest and poorest people of the country.
Mother Teresa was granted approval to leave her convent, after which, she completed six months of basic medical training. With this training, she ventured out for the beginning of the rest of her life to the slums of Calcutta. This is where the story becomes just incredible:
-Opened an open-air school
-Established a home for the dying
-Began a congregation called the “Missionaries of Charity”
-Established a colony for people who suffered from leprosy
-Established an orphanage
-Established a nursing home, family clinic, and several other medical clinics
-Opened a house of charity in New York
-Provided aid to both Christian and Muslim children in Lebanon
-Returned to New York and opened “Gift of Love” home to care for those infected with HIV/AIDS
-By her death in 1997, ”Missionaries of Charity” had more than 4,000 members, with thousands more of volunteers having created 610 foundations in 123 different countries.
(information found from: https://www.biography.com/religious-figure/mother-teresa)
Rosa Parks: Civil Rights Leader
Rosa was the granddaughter of slaves, and experienced the full spectrum of discrimination and activism since childhood. There was a time when her grandfather stood in front of their home while the KKK marched down their street. Following graduation from high school, Rosa became active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
December 1, 1955 was the day Rosa was “tired of giving in.” The day that she was arrested. Rosa sat in section of the bus designated for “colored” people, which was supposed to be equally divided for those of both races (“equal but divided”).
Although not a law, the practice became common that if more “white” people got on the bus than were seats in their section, that the bus drivers would move the sign back for the “colored” section to be smaller, to accommodate. Then, if there were not enough seats for the “white” passengers, the “colored” passengers were asked to give up their seats (ie. get off the bus). When the scenario occurred, in which more “white” people needed seats on the bus, and the driver moved the sign back a couple of rows (past where Rosa was sitting), she was the only one of the four people asked to moved who refused. The bus driver called the police and had Rosa Parks arrested.
What she did, this act of defiance in the face of injustice, sparked a successful protest called the “Montgomery Bus Boycott.” This last for 381 days and resulted in a Supreme Court ruling segregation on public transit systems as unconstitutional. The day of her trial, an estimated 40,000 commuters opted to walk or take African-American operated cabs to work. This became an effort for months, but it did not come without horrendous, violent resistance. I found this information on Rosa, and you can read more about the rest of her story on https://www.biography.com/activist/rosa-parks.
Rachel Hollis – New York Times Best-Selling Author, Motivational Speaker
Relatable and inspires by example. That is how I can best describe the incredible Rachel Hollis. For those of you who do not know who she is, I am so honored to share what I have learned about this incredible woman. She grew up in a tiny town called Weedpatch, CA, considered one of the poorest areas in its county. She has shared through her books and other work that she grew up in a home constantly filled with her parents fighting, breaking up, reconciling, then ultimately going through a “nasty” divorce. When Rachel was 14, her older brother committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot after battling mental health issues. Rachel was the one that found him.
[I found a blog she wrote back in 2016 about this, and about the importance of talking about mental health – https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mental-illness-what-could-have-saved-my-brother_b_2546252]
Rachel and her husband Dave, had three beautiful, healthy sons together. But they had a strong desire to have a daughter they could call their own. In a podcast where they tell their adoption story, they share the unfathomable heartbreak they had to endure prior to getting their daughter, Noah. This included being given about 30 minutes to decide if they would adopt a set of twin girls who had just been born. They took those babies home as their own, bottle-fed them, spent several hard days as the babies were in withdrawal, and cared for them for 6 weeks. They were then told there had been a mistake, and the babies were not only not adoptable, but that their father wanted them back. They lost them, after all of that.
If you find Rachel on the internet, via podcast, social media, or read any of her books, you have probably heard her say something like this: “I don’t need one more follower. I want more leaders.” She inspires women to love and embrace exactly who they are, where they are now, and who they were made to be. She loves people with the grace and honest truth that we must have our cups full in order to be able to pour out endlessly to others. So many people have the desire to become the best version of themselves, but the “how” is where so many get stuck. Rachel, her husband, and the Hollis Co. have already impacted millions of lives, and they are just getting started.
Malala Yousafzai: Youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Advocate for Worldwide Education for Girls
Malala was born to parents who were determined to celebrate her and raise her to have every opportunity a boy in Pakistan would have. Her father was a teacher at a girl’s school in their village, and instilled the love of education in his daughter. Unfortunately, their village was taken over by Taliban extremists, who banned any girl from attending school when Malala was just 11 years old. They blew up most of the schools in the area, and would brutally torture or kill any adult who defied them. At just 12 years old, Malala began speaking publicly about a girl’s right to education, marking her as a new Taliban target (one of the first targets on a child). She shared during her Nobel Peace Prize speech:
“I had two options: one was to remain silent and wait to be killed, and the second was, to speak up, and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up.”
In October 2012, when she was on a bus to school during exams week, a Taliban member got on the bus and asked “Who is Malala?” He proceeded to shoot her in the face.
10 days after the attack, Malala woke up in a hospital in England, to learn that people all over the world were praying for her. It took nearly two years before she “recovered,” and she had yet another profound choice to make: live a life that was quiet, or make the most of this life she miraculously was still living. Malala and her father started the Malala Fund, a charity that supports opportunities for girls to choose the future they dream of. She co-authored her international best-selling book, “I am Malala,” and she is currently completing her Bachelor’s Degree in politics and economic, and philosophy at at a college in Oxford.
Information found from: https://malala.org/malalas-story and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malala_Yousafzai
[I listened to the “Super Soul Sunday” podcast with Oprah and Malala, and you definitely shouldn’t listen if you don’t want to be awed, inspired and encouraged by those two amazing women. Search “Oprah Malala” in your podcast engine and you will find it!]
Incredible video montage and interview with Oprah and Malala: http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/oprah-and-nobel-peace-prize-winner-malala-yousafzai-video
I have to admit, as I read more and more about these women, there was SO much I did not know. I was awe-struck at how all of these women are just like you and me. I must note that I cannot begin to imagine the true struggles, pain, doubt, strength and perseverance that they truly felt in their hearts and minds. But somehow, each of them chose or are choosing to believe that there was/is a greater purpose for their lives. By their own forms of faith, persistence, trying, failing and trying again, they refuse(d) to give up on their purpose.
I might not ever lead a movement of tens of thousands of people. I might not ever speak on a big stage or accept some well-known prize. But what I do know is that that every single day I am going to wake up and live life on purpose. I will stand up and fight the good fight – the HARDEST one there is. Maybe one day, that fight is an internal battle of my deepest fears against my greatest hopes, another day I might battle my judgmental thoughts on someone who is different than me against my heart of compassion for every human, or even the battle of being distracted against being a present listener with those I love. Every victory of GOOD matters, no matter how “big” or “small” they seem. Goodness wins. Love wins!
Love you, friends.