By Alexis Dixon
Alexis Dixon Presents the Notes to Our Sons and Daughters Project
I heard my sister’s voice crying out on October 9, 2012.
Though I have never met Malala Yousufzai, this 14-year-old Pakistani girl is part of my family and yours. That October, while traveling to school, this young advocate of universal education was shot in the neck and head by a Taliban gunman.
Critically wounded, she was hospitalized in Pakistan and then England. As Malala recovered, far from being silenced, her voice was amplified and heard around the world.
Because of an act of barbarism, we now know of Malala’s courage, her determination, and her embrace of knowledge over ignorance.
Islamic clerics have condemned the attack. The United Nations has taken up the cause of children’s education worldwide. Malala has appeared on Time magazine’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” and has become history’s youngest Nobel Prize nominee.
I was shaken by Malala’s story. The power of her message left me wondering: Why do we so often ignore the voices of girls and women?
These stories and photos are part of my project, My Sister’s Voice, that provides a space where women’s invaluable and necessary contributions to our common humanity can be heard. On their faces, we can glimpse the wisdom they’ve gained from life. In their thoughtful observations, all of us, regardless of gender, are invited to a greater understanding of our shared humanity.
Stepping outside our limited backgrounds, opening our eyes and ears, we see and hear women from different nations as they impact society on multiple levels and represent diverse points of view. For all their differences, though, they are united on a fundamental level:
These are our sisters. Their issues are our issues, and as Malala reminded us, our world desperately needs to hear their voices.
Set aside any preconceived notions and just gaze, read, and click on the photos to listen to their stories. You may be surprised, moved, even startled. You will not be disappointed.
“There’s nobody so ugly he doesn’t have beauty within him, and no one so poor there isn’t richness within him, and no one so weak he doesn’t have strength within him. Every person is invaluable in this world, and so I serve every person, every prisoner, with love; I hope and pray through the Holy Spirit.”
Mother Antonia is an American Roman Catholic nun and activist known as “The Prison Angel.” She chose to reside and care for inmates at the notorious maximum-security La Mesa Prison in Tijuana, Mexico. Mother Antonia passed away in October 2013.
“The world has its flaws, just like everybody. The world isn’t perfect, but we can only hope. And I’m going to keep hoping.”
Inocente Izucar is an artist, teen activist, Academy Award winner, former homeless teen, undocumented daughter of Mexican immigrant parents from Chula Vista, CA.
“Women from diverse cultures always add value to the conversation. Their unique experiences demand we be inclusive and welcoming of their perspectives. As a Somalian woman working to effect change, this is critical to my work.”
Amina Sheikh is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action and Diversity Award recipient; heads the African American Campaign for the Network for a Healthy California, operated locally from the University of California, San Diego; and a 2013 Women’s History Month Local Hero honoree from San Diego, CA.
“I found my life’s passion when a professor of mine died from AIDS. He handed in our exams one day, and the next week he was gone. Later, my Ph.D. supervisor and best friend also died from AIDS. It appeared that a virus was able to peck out the very things that make our society uncomfortable: sex, death, homosexuality, prostitution. And typically, the population that’s infected has no voice in our society. As an epidemiologist, my life’s mission is to put myself out of a job. Sitting in a rocking chair looking back and thinking I did a little bit of something to put this disease to rest—that’s what I’m trying to do with my life.”
Steffanie Strathdee, Ph.D. is the associate dean of Global Health Sciences, Harold Simon Professor, and chief of the Division of Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine from San Diego, CA.
“I am the fourth daughter of my freedom-fighter parents, who dedicated their lives for the freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. My mother was 14 when she joined the movement. It was that culture, those ethics, and those values that shape me. As a lawyer, practicing law in support of women’s issues in India, I cherish the words of Gandhi that the society that doesn’t respect women is not a civil society.”
2013 Woman PeaceMaker, human rights attorney, founder of Maa Ghara (Mother’s Home), which provides a shelter for rehabilitating trafficked and sexually exploited women and girls. Through rescue, care, and legal protection, the home has served 5,000 women since 2004.
The Lasting Legacy
Now more than ever, the knowledge held by women needs to be embraced if we are to begin solving the challenges facing our community.In the voices of women we hear daughters and mothers and also brothers and husbands. The drowning out of women’s voices from earlier generations especially represents a great loss to not only corporate culture but to society. It runs the risk of cutting us off from their hard-earned wisdom, which might otherwise inform and guide people of all ages and all walks of life. Therefore, for the good of our shared humanity, the health of our corporate culture, for our society at large, and not least, our ability to meet future challenges, let us work together to dismantle barriers artificially built between the genders and safeguard the continuity of our collective history. Consider Notes to Our Sons and Daughters: My Sister’s Voice a small step in that process of carrying forward the wisdom of generations and both genders.
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Alexis Dixon is the Founder and Vision Director of the Notes to Our Sons and Daughters Project. He was born in Georgetown, Guyana and now lives in San Diego, California and The West Indies. He’s a conflict resolution professional.
© Copyright 2013
Photography Pablo Mason
“Notes to our Sons and Daughters”