I come from a line of strong women.
My paternal grandmother (Clotilde Verano) was known in her home town of Barranquilla (Colombia) for her political speeches. This was in the 1930s, when women didn’t even have the right to vote. But she spoke up and made a difference. My maternal grandmother (Merce Gerlein) was the first female delegate from Colombia to the United Nations. She fought to get women’s voting rights in my native country, and she led the charge in cultural initiatives and in helping the less fortunate.
I owe a great deal to both, knowing that much of who I am today is a result of their strong conviction and tenacity. I’m proud of my heritage; proud to come from women who knew their worth and had the conviction to make their voices heard. From them I learned many lessons about what it means to be a strong woman:
* I learned that women aren’t in competition with men. We are equal in worth, but wonderfully different in every other respect.
* I learned that if I want others to respect me, I must first respect myself (demonstrated, among other things, in how I conduct myself, how I dress, and how I speak).
* I learned the value of femininity, modesty, and decency.
* I learned to abstain from vulgar language because this silences my voice.
* I learned that emotions have their place, and that one of my strengths as a woman is the ability to feel deeply.
* I learned that I don’t have to be a pushover; that I can speak my mind, but to do so respectfully and in a spirit of cooperation.
* I learned that my body is a gift from God that I should cherish and care for.
* I learned that I have freedom to choose my actions; but that I should choose carefully and assume responsibility for their consequences.
* I learned that as a woman I can dream big dreams; and that if I’m willing to work hard, no one can keep me from achieving them.
* I learned that choosing to leave a promising career to be a wife and mother in no way diminishes my worth or value.
* I learned the value of family and the significance of motherhood.
Yes, I learned that being a woman is a beautiful thing; and I learned that being a strong woman doesn’t require me to reject help or gestures of chivalry.
* I like it when men hold the door open for women.
* I like it when men give up their seat for women in a crowded bus or subway.
* I like it when men pull back our chair and help us sit at a table.
* I like it when men ask us out for a meal and pay the bill.
Accepting these gestures doesn’t mean I am not capable of doing them myself. In no way does that convey that they consider me any less valuable. On the contrary, it shows how much they esteem women. So, I receive them with gratitude.
So today I embrace being a woman, and celebrate being a wife, daughter, sister, aunt and friend; and a well-educated professional. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been afforded, thanking the brave men and women who have paved the way for the rights and privileges I enjoy.
I am a woman – a strong, feminine woman – and proudly so.
Dr. Chiqui Polo-Wood | All rights reserved 2017