A Message for International Women's Day by Operation Mercy's International Director, Andrea Vogt
Happy International Women's Day for the 8th of March!
On the 8th of March 2008 I arrived in Tajikistan. I was the first female Country Director for that office. Many were looking at me and wondering "Who is she? How will she lead us?" "What will it be like to have a woman director?"
In many countries where we work, society is dominated by strong male models of leadership. And despite some role models like Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan who became the first female president in a majority Muslim country already in 1988, we seldom see women lead in our work.
The Sustainable Development Goal #5 starts with the sentence that empowering women and promoting gender equality is crucial to accelerating sustainable development. I totally agree with this: empowering women - enabling them to change their communities - is key to sustainable work.
I have seen many women who are already strong and full of courage in my 25 years of working with Operation Mercy. I have met these women in officers, in our own offices, projects, in communities, in schools and hospitals, and in government offices, doing excellent jobs in their workplace, while at the same time also fulfilling traditional roles in the home and in their family. But we all know that that is only one side of the story, because I have also met many women who are discouraged, sad, grieving, even pushed away. They feel that the whole burden of caring for their family and for their children rests on their shoulders.
Mostly, I have met women who have moved from one position to the other, who are on a journey. Women who started out discouraged, lonely, and pushed aside, facing really hard realities in their lives, but who took heart and participated in the opportunities that were given to them, sometimes by us in Operation Mercy, sometimes by others. These women have started to see their own value, their talents and what they can contribute to their families and to their communities and to society. I have seen many women who have found new hope, and they found a community, and they found ways to grow their own capacity.
These women remind me of Hagar. Hagar was the mother of Ishmael, the forefather of all Arab nations. Hagar faced a moment in her life where she thought her life and that of her son Ishmael was over. They were alone in the desert about to die, but God send an angel and they found water and they had something to drink. They were able to return to their life.
From that moment on, Hagar called God, "the God who sees me", the God who sees women.
In Operation Mercy, we see women. We see you because God sees you.
I love to journey with you all, to be part of your stories as women who find their strength and find hope. To be friends with you, with women who take responsibility and grow in leadership and are now role models for the next generation of girls and boys in your communities.We are proud of Operation Mercy's women who together are building a better future and sustainable development in our projects.