The Unspoken Heroes

My mother-in-law is staying with us this week and being in Manhattan she was reminded of the time she ran and operated a garment factory. She talked about the challenges she faced being uneducated, not able to speak English fluently. Her family were refugees from the Khmer Rouge era. Yet she managed to be an entrepreneur, working 18 hours a day just to make ends meet. Her story is an example of extraordinary women we encounter in our daily lives. It made me think of all the superheroes in my life that have fought, faced challenges with so much strength and determination. This is not a representation of all the amazing women in my life but the two who have fought for what they believed in.

Moving northwest of Cambodia where my mother-in-law’s story started, we head to Pakistan where my mother’s story started. In a culture where women were primarily housewives, my mother, I call her Ammi and her sisters were working women. They provided for the family, for the younger siblings, they helped buy and build a house for my grandparents. Things that are not common today. Ammi got married to my father and thought she could continue to be the independent woman she was but soon realized the misogynist and the mentality of the culture would not let her be. My father did not let her work, using the same claims men use now, of being incapable to handle the stress and the kids. He preferred if she solely dedicated her life taking care of the kids. Though she was not allowed to work outside, she continued to tutor kids at home and found avenues where she could be successful given the walls that were built around her. When I look at her today, I see the lack of confidence that my dad has successfully instilled in her. What he could not take away was the fierceness in her eye. He could not break her courage. She managed to raise successful kids, with the same determination and courage my mother-in-law had managed to run her factory. Ammi managed to send her kids to top colleges in the U.S. when no one with my parents income could have thought about taking that risk. Don’t get me wrong — we struggled and made ends meet. We took loans out but if it wasn’t for my mother’s dedication and her forcing us to strive for the best, we wouldn’t have had the same drive to force ourselves out of our comfort zones.

There have been great women that are an inspiration to us all — Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Hertha Ayrton, Malala Yousafzai to name a few but they are so many unspoken heroes around us everyday that are shaping, training and empowering the next generation to be better, powerful, fair, loving and just.

So cheers to the ‘ordinary’ heroes that are extremely extraordinary! You are our heroes, you are an inspiration!