This month we celebrate Women’s History Month, and today we celebrate International Women’s Day. It’s an important day to highlight and celebrate, but it’s also a day to remember the hundreds of thousands of our sisters around the world who have been silenced with ridicule, by verbal and physical abuse, and downright censorship on this day. It’s just another day for them—a day of hiding, suffering, and of waning hope.
This morning, I shared tweets and posts on Facebook, celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD), and as the morning went on, I read articles on IWD written by women from around the world, I felt a profound sense of sadness. While I recognize the importance of highlighting the demand for equality, and I support it 100% as a woman, a daughter, sister, and as a mother of a young adult woman, I am reminded of the missing and tortured women of Tijuana, the hundreds of girls still missing in Nigeria, the disruptions of women’s day celebrations in Peking, the stoning of women in the Middle East, and the list that goes tragically on and on. Let’s not forget them on this day.
Closer to home, I am reminded of families we serve dinners to at our local shelters, and how I felt when I first discovered that dozens of the families and single women we served live in the woods on the outskirts of my town with young children. I remember the frightened faces of young women who’d entered the US illegally with young children and babies in their bellies, hoping for assistance, a kind, respectful word, and a nonjudgmental smile when they walked through the doors of the Department of Health.
I think of the women I worked with as a refugee case worker in Belgium, the counseling clients we served in our Brussels counseling center for free, and the 27 women I worked with as a Family Support Worker of a non-profit organization in Northern Virginia. I am holding them close to my heart this morning, as well as the amazing women I worked with, who continue to serve as social workers, case managers, Family Support Workers, WIC staff, nurses, and staff members at different social service offices and organizations in Fairfax County, Virginia. I like to believe we had a common goal—to ease the lives of women and their children who were suffering. It is hard work, and I thank them all for their huge hearts and commitment.
Before I left my job at Northern Virginia Family Services, I thanked my co-workers for their tireless work and wished them well. One co-worker replied, “We do our best, but it’s only a drop in a huge bucket of needs.” It’s true, yet imagine if we did nothing. I shudder to think of the state of our world if we stood back, watched, and did nothing to help our brothers and sisters.
We must do better at home and abroad for women, for equality, and in educating young children that we are not islands–we are all brothers and sisters.
And to the women of the past, our ancestors, the women who forged the path for me and for millions of women around the world, I say thank you. To the awesome women in my family, alive and now passed on, thank you for your teachings and lessons. To my daughter, who works with young adults who’ve experienced their first psychotic episode, thank you for doing such important work. I love you. To the men and women who have mentored me, advised and encouraged me on my path, my thanks to you.
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.
A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon
Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.
Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.
Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.