Strong women surround me still.
Throughout my life, my path has been guided by confident and intelligent women. My mother taught me the importance of education and the significance of compassion. My sister encourages me constantly and, early in my life, she quickly assumed the role of my best friend. My grandmothers instilled a deep sense of piety and an indelible love of family within my soul. My aunts showed me the healing power of laughter and the possibilities of following one’s dreams. My cousins encompassed me in love and helped me become the man who I am today.
The ubiquity of strong women in my life is strikingly evident. As I reflect on the past twenty-three years, I recall mentors, church members, bosses, colleagues and close friends who exemplify the quintessential definition of a strong woman. Even as I progress through law school, strong women continue to offer invaluable insight as I strive to fulfill my goals. I don’t know where I would be without their advice and support; I certainly would not have accomplished anything close to what I have done had it not been for strong women in my life.
At this critical point in history, as women’s rights are attacked in myriad ways, the world’s citizenry must affirm its support for more than half of the global population. Threats to reproductive justice and insufficient compensation are just two ways in which the rights of women continue to be diminished in the twenty-first century. These egregious injustices exist as unfortunate realities within our social and political landscape.
I must admit that I take solace in the rising generation of women who have ascended and will likely ascend to various positions of leadership in the United States. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Donna Edwards and Tammy Duckworth are several examples of women who have broken glass ceilings and who, I believe, will usher America into a new period of prosperity.
However, for these leaders to be truly successful, it requires us, as a nation, to galvanize behind issues that fully permit women to ascend to the heights that they were destined to attain. We must confer complete autonomy to women in decisions regarding their sexual health. We must close the pay gap that prevents women from fully living up to their potential. We must aggressively combat practices that subject women to the patriarchal evils of human trafficking and other horrors. This is where the work begins, but the path to true equality is a long and undulating one.
An oft-quoted statement of one of my heroines, Fannie Lou Hamer, is “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” This is the moment to address the concerns that Ms. Hamer voiced so many years ago. Let us unapologetically move forward into a world where women are given the recognition and status that they have worked so hard to achieve. The road will be filled with many road blocks and hurdles, but, as a country, we have overcome equally difficult challenges in our past. This country cannot flourish at its full capacity until women achieve a level of representation within our nation’s leadership that reflects their presence in our society.
As Women’s History Month 2015 concludes, let us recommit ourselves to the causes of true equality and justice.
– Andrew Hairston