International Women’s Day 2012 is focusing on the women in the Pacific, raising awareness of their inequality and raising money to make their life better. I have actually had some amazing experiences with my deployment to the Solomon Islands in 2009 with real women living a very different life to us. The irony of my entire being in another country trying to make a difference was I had a 9 month old baby and a 4 year old back home in Australia. I had left them in the capable hands of their father, but still it was a really hard choice to make. When men deploy on Operations it’s common they are heroes, but when you are a woman deploying to another country with small children you can be made to feel like a monster. I am so proud to have had to opportunity to deploy on a peace keeping mission and I thought on International Women’s Day it was a great day to blog about it.
I was able to visit many villages some that could only be reached by helicopter and have some wonderful memories that will always stay with me. I loved the look on the women’s faces when I’d tell them “I have two pikinini belong me in Australia”. They would nearly fall over at the thought of leaving the kids to go off and work. I met many women my age usually with 7 or so kids hanging off them. I truly don’t know how they do it, there are no disposable nappies, no fancy three wheeled jogger prams, no washing machines, no child care centre to drop the kids off at while mums meet for coffee. They do it tough and they are my heroes. The way they carry their baby around in a sarong in the heat and breast feed their babies as there is no other option is admirable.
The children are wonderful, they have not been brainwashed by TV, nor are they wearing the latest fashions they are just lucky to be wearing any clothes at all and shoes are a luxury. The children loved having their photo taken and then shown on the display screen. They all line up to have their picture taken and giggle when they see their little faces looking back at them. They are amused with simple things like balloons and blowing bubbles they are so much fun to watch.
The memory that sticks in my head the most is when I met two young girls who were just 13 and both had babies wrapped in sarongs attached to their bodies. I spent some time talking to the girls who hardly spoke English and they let me hold their babies. I came back the next week for another visit to the village this time I took a photo of me and my two children and I gave it to the girls. They couldn’t believe their eyes I think they had never seen a white fella baby before. They asked to keep the photo, so in some little bamboo hut in a little village far far away sits my photo with my white fella pikinini’s.
One thing I didn’t expect to get out of the deployment was a total priority make over. No longer was it important to me what I was wearing or what I was driving, I had really come to appreciate the most important thing in life that we often take for granted, and that is family. That’s what these people have instead of flash cars and big houses, is each other. So within your family you can empower your daughters and help them change the world one generation at a time we can make a difference for women all over the globe.
If you want to learn more or make a donation visit: http://www.internationalwomensday.org.au/
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