I didn’t pursue secondary education after high school because I had always been told that it wasn’t my role as a woman. The plan was always that I would be the primary caregiver for my future children, and my future husband would be well educated and able to financially support us. In my community, these were shared expectations, so it wasn’t hard to find someone willing to fulfill my plans.
We married, and soon had a beautiful daughter followed by three sons. My daughter stunned me with her intelligence and creativity. I knew she could make a meaningful contribution to the world. Seeing the potential she held awoke something in me: I began to see potential in myself.
During my youngest son’s nightly feeding, I read F. Scott Fitzgerald, “It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” The next day, at age 34, I enrolled in the College of Agricultural Science at Oregon State University.
Education changed my life. It helped me dismantle my entire world view. I recognized the historical roots of the inequitable ideas in my previous beliefs and the injustices perpetrated by these ideas. Through the new experiences and ideas my education provided, I gained the ability to think critically. I gained flexibility in my own perceptions and an understanding and respect for other people’s perspectives. I graduated magna cum laude with a degree in agricultural economics and environmental economics and policy from the University of Oregon and continued on to earn a masters in development practices from the University of Arizona where I graduated, at 41, with a 4.0 grade point average.
My education enabled me to expand my views, build a better life for myself and my children, and participate in the work of building a better and more equitable world.
I want all women to have the chance to experience feeling smart and capable, of having something important to contribute to her family and her community, which is why I work with AfricAid, a nonprofit that supports mentoring opportunities for girls secondary school in Tanzania, through their sister organization, GLAMI (Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative). In Tanzania, girls are too often raised believing what I once believed, that their place is in the home, not the corner office.
I am proud to support AfricAid in giving girls the gift of education and the soft skills mentoring provides that help them take full advantage of that gift. I want every girl, everywhere, to know how capable, smart and valuable her ideas and contributions are to this world. It took me far too long to realize that for myself.