So many women inspire me. They may not be the head of a country or a cause or even the head of a department or a visible leader of any kind.

The women who inspire me are those who live their lives the way they want to or make the best of the situation that they’re in.

My mum inspires me. She is a woman ahead of her time. She was brought up in a house (not really a home as she barely felt loved) where family members lived to survive.

Meals were just enough to sustain them and reading was her great escape. She lived in a kampung house where the lights were switched off after dinner to save electricity.

Homework was done under the light of an oil lamp.

She studied hard because she knew she was in charge of her own life and her mom depended on her. Her dad left when she was very little and he introduced himself as a gardener when she first met him and only learned that he was her father some time later.

She did good enough in school to qualify for an international scholarship but her mum needed her to start work quickly.

She moved to Kuala Lumpur to finish her education at a local university before landing her first job and starting work as a tour guide. She then brought her mum to KL to live with her.

My mum strived and slowly climbed the corporate ladder, going through the recession, learning sign language so she could teach in the school for the deaf when she got retrenched, and finally getting her big break a few years down the road. With the good job came the discrimination (and sometimes jealousy) from some of her colleagues, both male and female.

During all this, she managed to save enough with my dad to buy a few modest properties, to ensure there will always be shelter for us, and enough to put me in a good school.

I couldn’t see how her working long hours and catching the bus (and waiting hours sometimes) was what she needed to do so we could live comfortably. When I was growing up, all I wanted was play time with her.

She would come home exhausted and too tired to play but made sure I was on track in my studies. My dad provided me with the company I needed when she was out handling media crises in the middle of the night.

I’m thankful for the sacrifices she had to make so we can live comfortably now. She’s a strong woman with a vision.

Other women who inspire me are those who choose to be mothers, career leaders, women who know what they want and do what they have to do to get things done, whether alone or with the support of both their male and female counterparts.

Women who speak up inspire me, women who stand their ground inspire me, women who choose to be comfortable in their own skin inspire me, women who lead inspire me, women who just are, inspire me.

There is a lot more that can be done for women who are oppressed, that’s for sure. A lot of education is needed to let women see that they can choose to remain oppressed or not. This education is meant for both genders so we can learn to complement each other better.

Being a strong woman doesn’t mean she doesn’t need help. Being a strong woman means she recognises what she can do and cannot do and when she needs help.

Being a strong woman doesn’t mean we hate the men in our lives. It means we want to be respected as an equal partner when it comes to making decisions and getting equal salaries when we do the same job. It means we should get access to education without the fear of being killed. It means we should be able to live our lives without the worry of being seen as someone less capable or less.

Being a strong woman means getting to live the way you want to.

Happy International Women’s Day.

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