Our Stories . . .

The last few weeks have lifted the stories of the contributions, challenges, and struggles of women. We are reminded that women and children can be counted among society’s most vulnerable. It is nearly impossible to think about one group without thinking about the other.  Both are intricate parts of any society, with distinctive roles.  Women are perceived as natural nurturers, and children are referred to and revered as the future; holding the potential fulfillment of personal and societal hopes and dreams. Yet, people identified as either individually, and as members of each specific group continue to live realities that chip away at the ability to provide that necessary nurturing for self and others, or to fully experience being a child, and to envision a bright and productive future.  What does this mean for women and for girls who exist and grow in a society that in various ways devalue who they are? And how does it shape the stories or narratives girls and women tell themselves?

Women’s History Month allows an intentional pause and reflection on women, and time to hear stories that we may know, do not know, and certainly those stories we need to know. Our stories are important and our stories matter. The most pivoting stories are often the personal narratives of women.  There is empowerment when women tell their stories, in their own words, and give voice to their experiences. Such narratives provide insight into the ebbs and flows of our lives that inform who we are today, and who we are moving toward being tomorrow.  Listening to women’s stories is a reminder that we do not always look like, what the stories we tell say we have been through.

When it comes to the issue of homelessness, the stories of women and children intertwine. Those stories can be about housing insecurity and wandering from place to place, parenting while living in shelters and transitional housing, or sleeping in cars and other uninhabitable spaces. The stories can be about failing health and chronic conditions facilitated by the stress of not having housing or proper rest, exposure to unsatisfactory living conditions in the places designated to provide emergency and temporary housing, and the lack of nutritional food to nourish the body and mind. The stories can also be about personal triumphs, overcoming life situations, circumstances and conditions, and about the kindness or support of people who connected with us along the way.

We must continue to tell our stories and be open to hear and lift the stories of diverse women during Women’s History Month and beyond. We should not be afraid or shamed into silence. Our stories can provide the hope needed to move forward when life seems too daunting to bear.  Our stories provide opportunity for joy and celebration. As a collective, our stories as women remind us and others of our worth. Our stories help us understand who we are. They are important to our healing. Our stories teach us and teach others.  No matter what our stories or narratives may be, the most important one for women continues to be the one we tell self.

DeBorah Gilbert White