Several years ago, a prominent writing couple, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, wrote a book entitled Half the Sky, in which they made the statement that women hold up half the sky, meaning that, in spite of having less power in most countries, in spite of the gender bias and misogyny which exists in so many places, in spite of unequal pay for equal work, in spite of often-incredible violence against them, women are consistently the ones who keep things going...the ones who are responsible for family survival...the ones who make it possible for life to go on.
Yesterday, I was privileged to meet with twelve women who are indeed holding up their share of the sky...women who, in their fifties and sixties and seventies, are determinedly working hard and creating a community of support in which they are being able to care for their AIDS-orphaned grandchildren with wisdom and courage and strength. The Ebenezer Nyanya grandmothers of Mount Kenya are phenomenal women and the way in which they have organized themselves- with some help and guidance from the Nyanya Project- is awe-inspiring.
I was first privileged to meet these grandmothers in 2011, on my previous trip to Kenya. The encounter left a lasting impression on me and it was with great joy that I joined Nyanya's founder, Mary Martin, her young intern, Blyth, and my friend, Mae, for the trip to Mt. Kenya for the day.
Words simply cannot convey the exchange of joy which took place upon our arrival, with hugs and joy-filled smiles and excited cries of welcome filling the air. And then sitting down with them to hear about what has been happening in their lives, to see how well they looked and to hear about how their grandchildren are doing- and actually seeing many of them for ourselves... again, no words. These women take my breath away by the way in which they take hold of life and live every bit of it, neither complaining nor feeling sorry for themselves and the hard lot life has dealt them, but rather striving to make life better for their grandchildren. They are incredibly beautiful women and my heart is filled with admiration and love for them. Half the sky? Sometimes I think they're holding the whole thing.