Last week, your nerd along with the rest of the world rejoiced when Claudia Goldin won the Nobel Prize for Economics. She is the third woman in history to win this award – and the first as a solo winner.
Her being recognized means so much to me because it is her courage to challenge what is, to speak up, alongside many other brave women – that gave me permission to do the same. To find my mission and my voice – and hopefully to inspire more women along the way.
Because there is so much more that remains to be done.
Giving a Voice to the Invisible
Until today, the struggle for fair pay is one of the worst challenges for women. And if that’s the case for those working in the formal sector, how much more difficult is it for the Ibus who are not even counted? Women working informally, who doesn't even make it to the data set and calculations?
Before SukkhaCitta, I never thought of where the things we use come from. Let alone imagine how it was made. It was only when I started researching in the villages did I meet the women who make our clothes. Mothers, working from home. Who is not able to leave her village because she has to take care of her family.
Who is unable to earn a fair wage because she has no access to the things we take for granted: Education and the privilege of having a choice.
The truth is, our modern lives rely on the invisible work of women. Work that has been undervalued for generations. Out of sight, out of mind.
Choices that Empower
It’s easy to take the work of all these 'strangers' for granted. To forget, in everyday’s busyness, that our choices have a real impact on the invisible women who made it for you.
And this choice can really make a difference.
One of the greatest joys in running SukkhaCitta all these years is seeing how the women who did not even dare to look me in the eye when I first met them transform into confident pillars of their community.
Women like Ibu Tur – who now is an instructor in our first craft school, teaching the next generation not only the craft of batik but also important values such as patience, diligence and confidence.
Women like Ibu Arum who fought for her daughter to become the first girl in her village to graduate high school – and succeeded despite all the odds.
After years of being invisible, they finally have the permission to take control of their own life. Being connected directly to people like you, they know that their work is being valued, that they’re being seen.
Why am I telling you all this?
To me, the story of Claudia, Ibu Tur, Ibu Arum and countless others shows the power of women supporting each other. Through their actions, through their choices and – maybe most important of all – through their own story, their own voice.
That’s why Claudia’s win is a win for us all.
It is women like her, and many more before her, who made it possible for us to be where we are today. By dedicating their lives to break the barriers we women face, by standing up for what they believe in, they give us permission to do the same.
Finding Your Voice
And that’s why it’s so important for all of us to find and use our voice. Despite, or maybe especially, because it is scary.
When I started speaking up more, I began to face criticisms that have nothing to do with my work and all to do with my gender. When we project confidence, we are told that we’re full of ourselves. That we don’t know our place.
The same traits that are valued for men, become ones that I have had to justify.
But what of it? What are a few hateful comments against a young woman coming up to me after a talk saying thank you for sharing my story. What are a few snide remarks against one more woman who was inspired to walk her own path?
Yes, there is so much more that needs to be done - especially in developing countries like Indonesia and our informal sectors. But never forget your own power to be an agent of change, to make a difference in the lives of the women around you.
With the choices we make to support women like bu Tur and bu Arum. But also with the stories we share and the actions we take.
We stand on the shoulders of women who came before us. Just as much as the next generation of young women will stand on ours.
So, how will you show up for the women around you today?