When you think of the word “strong,” who do you think of?
A muscular man, lifting weights … fixing a road with heavy machinery … carrying bricks to build a big wall?
That’s physical strength, yes. But so often, strength looks like this:
It’s Mina Bibi, cleaning a clinic in Pakistan for $10 a month to support her four daughters after losing her husband. And then an earthquake destroys her house, and she has to pick up the pieces for them, all alone. That’s strength.
Strength is Naza, surviving World War II and the war in Bosnia, losing her husband, seeing her village burned down, then starting over in a new city with her sister — and then losing her sister and getting by all alone at age 83.
Strength is Mary walking away from violence in South Sudan, pregnant and alone with her two young children, while her husband has to stay behind—then giving birth to her new baby on the ground outside the clinic because there’s no room inside.
Strength is Um Omar from Syria, scraping together meals for her children with whatever she can find at the refugee camp—and figuring out how to tell them no, she can’t give them to foods they remember and ask for.
Strength is Zahefa in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, leaving her children behind to go bring them water because she has no other choice—until the day she gets the opportunity to join a new group where she can work together to bring a water system to her village.
Strength is Hajar in Afghanstan, pushing herself from being unable to read the signs in the market to learning to read, write, do math—and run two businesses.
Strength is Maria, overcoming the setbacks an orphan faces, and working for a degree in education so she can teach other children and “be a light of hope for them.”
Today, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate women around the world—the unsung women, working so hard, and so often in the shadows.
We celebrate the women reading this, and thank you for the work you do every day, even if nobody sees it except Allah. We recognize you.
May Allah bless and reward you, and your mothers who brought you up, and may He bless and reward Mina Bibi, and Naza, and Mary, and Um Omar, and Maria, and all of their sisters, working so hard to do what has to be done.