Empowering our Daughters

Empowering our daughters to become heroes.

Empowering our daughters to become heroes.

by Phyllis K. Peterson

Empowering our daughters can create youth who become heroes. As a teacher who travels the world I have the opportunity to encourage children and youth of all ages and to witness the hope and despair of parents who are seeking the best for their children. The following examples compare those who have advocates and those who live without opportunities.

Two Young Heroes

Anisa Kintz, a 9 year old, saw a need for teaching people about racism in the educational system, so she created a conference titled “Calling All Colors”, in which over 200 people participated. She arranged for all of the speakers, oversaw all the publicity and through her efforts the conference then spread throughout North Carolina and internationally.  She was awarded the “Thousand Points of Light” by the President of the United States.

Samantha Smith was 10 years old when she sent a letter to Yuri Andropov, then Secretary of Soviet Communist Russia, conveying her fear that the United States and Russia would become involved in a nuclear war. She was then catapulted onto the world stage and became an international speaker who brought the two countries closer together. She became a hero – whose Father, her biggest advocate and the person who empowered her, died with her in a small air plane crash when she was 15 years old.

What set these girls apart?  They were citizens of the world.  Their voices were not silenced.  They received support from their parents and were positively reinforced. And they were not locked into traditional roles because their boundaries were expanded by positive advocates.

Qualities of an Empowered Hero

Let’s compare them with unsupported female children living in poverty, the same age, in Thailand and in Botswana where I traveled to teach in 2006 and 2007.  These 9 and 10 year old girls have food and shelter insecurities, are in danger of becoming part of the child sex industry.    They receive no positive reinforcement and by the time they are 12 to 15 years old….IF…they are still in school, sugar daddies wait in their cars for them to be released from school.  They then trade sex for food, clothing, and jewelry.

What are the qualities of the girl who is empowered to be a hero?

  1. It requires that she mentally and spiritually believes and accepts the possibility that she is destined to be a hero, recognizing her equality, and self-worth.
  2. She breaks free of the traditional restrictions of age, sex and race, especially the ones that restrict her voice and seduce her into passivity.
  3. If she doesn’t have a model in her parents or caregiver, she must have an advocate that encourages her. The girl who is destined to be a hero actually seeks out an advocate!
  4. The fourth heroic female quality is that she is willing to be detached from the things of the world in pursuit of a higher self, willing to see the presence of God in both humanity and nature.
  5. The fifth step is a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the sake of some higher aim, committed to being a living sacrifice filled with the spirit of mercy, not a negative martyr, but ready to experience spiritual gifts and true joy because she is serving and sacrificing for the Glory of God, facing the relevant issues in the world, such as war, racism, sexism, prejudice and environmental protection.
  6. And the sixth step is that she seeks to attain Unity and Justice in a world weary of divisiveness and injustice.

Empowered girls need to see female heroes in action using principles that will unite men and women, because…“Unless and until women are allowed to attain their highest possibilities, men will be unable to attain the greatness that might be theirs.”

© 2008 Phyllis K. Peterson

Ms. Peterson is the author of three books published by Baha’i Publishing. “Assisting the Traumatized Soul,” “Healing the Wounded Soul,” and “The Heroic Female Spirit: A Collection of Tales”, available at your local bookstore.

Points #1 through #5 excerpted from “The Heroic Female Spirit”, used by permission of the National Baha’i Spiritual Assembly of the United States.

‘Abdu’l-Baha, Son of Baha’u’llah, prophet/founder of the Baha’i Faith, in Paris Talks.