Happy International Women's Day

Mar 11, 2021

Happy International Women's Day to all women near and far! I also want to honor all the great men out there--we all rise up together. My daughters are so excited to be celebrated this month and every other month. I focused on two women to teach my children about in honor Women’s History Month- starting first with a personal story about my grandmother.

My grandmother’s legacy 

I wanted to first start by sharing the story of my maternal grandmother. She turned 97 or 98 years old last month. We do not know her exact age since does not have her birth certificate, so we calculate her age based on how old she was when she had her first child. My grandmother and I are very close -- I am her last grandchild, the baby of the family. I have been able to visit her in India almost every year of my life. Here is a picture from 1998 (3 generations) and 2020 (4 generations) with my daughters.

I am so proud of her because she received an award this month for International Women’s Day!  She was honored by a local organization in her hometown of Calicut, India for being the oldest living Hindu woman in that city. This is special because in Hindu culture, it is considered a privilege to formally honor our elders, and in doing so we receive their lifetime blessings for ourselves and our families. It is especially an honor if one of our elders reaches such respectable age.

A bit about my Patti (this is what we call her, it’s one of the Tamil words for grandmother).  Her name is Janaki, which is another name for Goddess Sita. Her name is from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, in which Sita is the heroine of the story. Her name exemplifies an ideal woman who remained brave, strong, and loyal despite all the challenges she faced.

  • As you can see, this is the perfect name for my grandmother. She is a strong smart woman who raised 7 children with many challenges in her life which was common for her generation.  
  • She grew up in a time when India was under British rule. She walked many miles every day to go school, studied by candlelight, helped her mother raise all her younger siblings (she was the oldest), and completed more schooling than many women of her generation. 
  • She experienced financial struggles both growing up and in her married life yet found a way to ensure all her children received an education and started their own families. 
  • She still has the memory of an elephant- she never forgets anything- what a brain! 
  • Teaching Children: What my grandmother taught her children, lessons we can all learn from:
    • Always help and give- She has always helped the extended family and community. She has always given to others in need even when she didn't have much to give. After all, giving is a gift of life.
    • Prioritize an education- One of the most important things in life is your education and how you leverage the knowledge you gain. She taught me that women can do whatever a man does (plus more since they can have children too) and should strive to achieve whatever it is that they desire. 
    • Do not depend on anyone but yourself- During her time, this was a rare concept.  But she has taught all her five daughters to stand on their own two feet and not depend on anyone. As women, we must be independent and take care of ourselves and our family. While it does take a village, the strength of the village comes from us.

Currently, my grandmother is living a great life and is still independent. She still cooks and cleans on her own and can tell you stories from the 1930s! WOW! My Patti is an inspiration not only for her strength through adversity but also for the example of her selflessness and independence.

Female Global Leaders

While there are so many inspiring women in the United States, I wanted my girls to learn about someone outside the US that they may not learn about in school at the early elementary ages.  So I introduced them to Malala Yousafzai (Shyla's video above)- world activist, selfless leader, and an inspiration to us all! 

 As a young girl, Malala fought injustice against powerful, dangerous forces that wanted to shut down her voice for good. She was brave enough to risk her life so all Pakastani girls could receive an education. At the age of 17 years old, she won a Nobel Peace Prize, and she was the youngest person ever to earn this achievement. She started the Malala Fund, which is a global education fund that supports efforts to help girls receive an education -- one of life’s greatest gifts. Your child can learn more about Malala here. 

Here is how I approach lessons for teaching children about global female leaders: 

  • Take a global lens:  I focused on influential international leaders. Why? Aligned to our approach in education, this also presented an opportunity to learn about different countries and religions while learning about someone who is changing the world.  
  • Past vs. current figures: I balance my teachings with leaders that are in past history vs. current history. I balance those who are deceased and those who are still alive.  This enables my girls to connect with current times/younger people versus solely to what happened 50-100 years ago. Both are needed for a full perspective to understand historical evolution and all that has been fought for to get where we are today.
  • World Facts: Specifically- Malala's story opens up questions such as "What is the Taliban?" Clearly that is a bigger conversation which my daughters may be too young for the details of everything, but I did not ignore the question. For that, I explained:
    • In some parts of the world there are leaders that are not good people.  They do not treat everyone fairly and people do not have equal rights. It helped my children appreciate all they have when they understand how different things are in other parts of the world.  
    • In her story- there will be the term “attempted assassination.” I explained what this is similar to what happened to Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr- bad people did not want them around anymore. But, guess what- Malala survived! 
    • While in the US we have our own challenges, we are very blessed to live in a part of the world where young girls can receive an education without fearing for their lives.
  • What is special about the individual that we can learn from: Translate the leader’s characteristics and how we can be better everyday. We summarized our learnings by discussing what Malala is known for. The girls came up with these words: courageous, brave, studying hard, determined, fighting for what is right, and helping others. These can be traits of any individual seeking to achieve great things in life.

Here are a few children’s books that we are reading for the early elementary years about Malala and other global women leaders.


The Story of Malala Yousafzai: A Biography Book for New Readers (For grades 2-3), By: Joan Marie Galat (Author)

“Malala Yousafzai became a brave activist while she was still a young girl. Before she fearlessly fought for girls’ right to education, she was a thoughtful kid who enjoyed school, sports, and daydreaming. Then Malala was told that girls would no longer be able to go to school. She didn’t let that stop her, though! Find out how Malala stood up for equal rights and became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.” 


Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World (For grades 2-3), By: Vashti Harrison (Author)

“Featuring the true stories of 35 women creators, ranging from writers to inventors, artists to scientists, Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World inspires as it educates. Readers will meet trailblazing women like Mary Blair, an American modernist painter who had a major influence on how color was used in early animated films, actor/inventor Hedy Lamarr, environmental activist Wangari Maathai, architect Zaha Hadid, filmmaker Maya Deren, and physicist Chien-Shiung Wu. Some names are known, some are not, but all of the women had a lasting effect on the fields they worked in.”

Thanks for reading through all this. As I always say, “Even a sprinkle of knowledge can open up a world of curiosity.” Let’s celebrate women empowerment this month and every day.  





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