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Lessons LearnedDate: 29/11/2010

It has taken me more time than I thought to post my thoughts ‘post trip.' I am not sure why, but there it is. So, in the context that this was my first endeavor to help in the empowerment of women and girls, what did I learn? That one person really can make a difference. I had been warned not to get my hopes up, not to expect too much to happen. And so when I arrived and started, I didn't have a huge expectation. What I did have was a drive to do something, anything, that would help the girls and help the people helping the girls. I have to tell you, honestly, I think I made a difference. Seeing Rinku, aka ‘Silent One', going from not being able to say a word to tossing out a respectable ‘kee-eye!', that was one difference. Seeing girls second-naturedly striking me to throat even as I put my hands on their shoulders or around their neck, that was another difference. Seeing girls who had never done a punch in their lives throwing out punches and kicks, another difference. Hearing the girls not only ‘kee-eye' but count in Japanese no less, amazing. I also learned that girls are girls despite differences in geography, culture, religion, and economic circumstances. They want to be pretty. They want to be liked. They want to be noticed. They want to be special. And they are special; we girls are special. I learned that even though there are substantial and deep-rooted impediments to their empowerment, that the spark exists in every girl I met to become something greater than she imagined. I learned that karate and self defense are indeed very good tools to use for empowerment, but cognitive skills are an important piece in permanently overcoming cultural, societal, and familial barriers to empowerment. If a girl does not think she is worth anything, she will not fight for her own life no matter how many physical survival techniques she has learned or mastered. I now find myself wondering at how to continue my work.

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