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International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

She didn’t talk about her past. Not about her early innocent farm life. Not about being a child in a refugee camp, making toys from mud and sticks. Not about the girls next door who died when their tent caught fire.

Laila’s focus was on the women in another continent.

Laila’s family was Yazidi, a religious minority in northern Iraq. In 2014, Isis militants attacked the Yazidis in the Sinjar region. For two weeks, Isis inflicted an unrelenting terror of genocide upon the Yazidis. Thousands of women and girls were assaulted and sold into sex slavery.

By the time I met Laila, her family had made their way out of Iraq. They landed in Lincoln, Nebraska, home to the largest community of Yazidis in the United States. There, Laila served as a luminous link to survival for Yazidi women seeking to escape their imprisonment of horror.

Laila took calls at all hours of the day and night from women held captive by their rapists and torturers. She became an international voice for the invisible and helped found the Yazidi Cultural Center. She salvaged countless souls through her sacrifice.

Ever since I was a young feminist, my heart has been drawn to the plight of women in foreign lands. I wept while walking through the Johannesburg home of Winnie Mandela. I once pressed my business card into the hand of a spokeswoman for Afghan women oppressed by the Taliban, naively under the illusion I could offer aid.

While I had emotions about international women, in Laila I saw the living of her intentions. It made me question my own.

I can exhaust myself just be reading the headlines of stories of injustices about women around the world. When I stay there too long, or when I compare myself to Laila, I watch my energy drain. It leaves me with less to give to the woman down the hall, on the street, in my family.

I’m not Laila, I remind myself. But I am me. I must do what is mine to do, even if it is as simple as empowering every good woman I know right here in my own small circle.

To our Lailas who continue to inspire us, I give my gratitude and all honor. To all who are doing the best they can, I say carry on. And to women everywhere, I wish an inspired and hopeful International Women’s Day.

Coach Koenig

Is there a woman who inspires you?

How do you connect with women around the world?

How will you acknowledge this day?

Coach Koenig