By Jodie Hewson, CARE Canada
Molly is one of the latest members of the I Am Powerful Council in Ottawa. While she fits the profile of our other amazing members, I realized after spending an hour with her, gripped by her words, that her story represents what CARE is constantly trying to achieve.
Molly Samakai was born in Zambia, the second child to a loving family of eight daughters. Growing up, she says, her family experienced an overwhelming reaction from onlookers, who were shocked by their family’s “unfortunate” situation of having no sons.
Nevertheless, her parents always assured them, “We are all a family and we all love each other the way we are.” They encouraged their daughters to “prove others wrong” by pursuing an education and creating lives for themselves.
Empowered by this message, four of the eight daughters pursued advanced studies and were accepted into the University of Zambia. Given the low level of girls’ enrollment in university at the time and the extremely competitive nature of acceptance to the university, having four girls accepted from one family was a noticeable anomaly. Once again, Molly says with a chuckle, their family was the talk of their community.
Molly pursued a bachelor of arts in economics, with a minor in sociology, and a masters in development studies with a focus on gender. After graduating and spending time working in her field, Molly was hired as executive director of the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa (SWAAZ). There, she managed programming in rural communities throughout Zambia aimed at reducing the impact and spread of HIV/AIDS. In early 2012, her husband was appointed the High Commissioner of the Republic of Zambia in Canada and the two moved to Ottawa.
Pass the Gift
When I sat with Molly, she shared with me countless stories about the amazing work and programming she took part in with her former organization SWAAZ in Zambia. One theme in particular stands out.
Molly explained to me the “Pass the Gift” initiative, whereby a community or family would receive livestock or bags of grains to plant and grow. Upon harvest time, SWAAZ would encourage these communities to “pass the gift” and donate a portion of their harvest or livestock litter to a neighbouring family. The next year, the recipient family would be asked to do the same.
“It was like a ripple of sustainability,” says Molly.
While this concept is not uncommon, it certainly serves as an apt metaphor for her life. Encouraged by her family to pursue higher goals, Molly has passed the gift, empowering thousands more to do the same.
Now I conclude this blog with a quote from Molly:
As women, we need to empower each other. There are vulnerable women in the world, and it’s not because they’re not intelligent. It’s because they lack the opportunities to do better for themselves and their families.
If one person can extend a hand and pull up one person, that one person might be able to pull up 20 people. That’s why if you can help make a difference in someone else’s life, even if it’s just one person, than you will have done so well.
So the question remains with you:
Do you believe in your own power?
Now pass the gift.
Interested in joining an I Am Powerful Council in your city? Click here to learn more about the I Am Powerful movement.