“An empowered woman empowers society. It is a big responsibility being a woman and being a mother. Women need to be supported with their children, with their family and with their work. Before all the diplomats were men. Then there were female diplomats but until 2002 female diplomats from Kuwait were not places in international roles. A woman may face injustice at any stage of life. And we need to promote our rights more than men have too. I am proud that I am a woman and even prouder that I have reached my goals despite gender challenges.” Alya is the 8th female diplomat from Kuwait that has been sent to another country and has been working at the United Nations headquarters since 2011 and will return to Kuwait this summer. She is also the mother of four children.
Mary was sitting on a bench in Stuyvesant Town and I saw her beautiful blue eyes flash in the sunlight and I stopped to photograph her. “I was Special Ed teacher in Brooklyn at P.S. 10 for more than twenty years. I loved it,” explained Mary. One of Mary’s daughters is also a teacher and ironically works at the same school in Brooklyn where Mary worked. She is a mother to four children and a grandmother to five children who all live in Peter Cooper Village Stuyvesant Town. ” I was raised in Queens but my husband was from Manhattan and we moved into Stuyvesant over forty years ago and just stayed, ” she said. While interviewing Mary several people passed and waved to her and I got the sense that Mary has a big community of friends here. One of Mary’s daughters is also a teacher and ironically works at the same school in Brooklyn where Mary worked. ” I get to see my kids and grandchildren but not as often as I’d like. They are in school and working and busy. But, I get to spend a lot of time with them in the summer at my beach house in Springlake,” she said.
“Everything I am now is because I am a woman and I want to make life better for other women.” explained Sarah Bender. I met Sarah at a return peace corps volunteer event at a bar in the East Village last night. I was in the peace corps 20 years ago and I think there was only one person at the event last night that was older than me. I looked around the tables at all of these young do-gooders and they all looked just like my Peace Corps cohort, except back then the guys had longish hair instead of man buns and piercings weren’t quite as common. Sarah served as a volunteer in Jordan and now is working as the assistant director of an LGBT Health Center that is part of the Metropolitan Hospital Center. “I love being a woman. It is always going to be hard as a woman. The expectations are different, but even in Jordan I felt that I got to experience something among the women that the male volunteers would not see. The minute men left a room the demeanor of the women would change instantly and we’d be talking openly and laughing over tea.” While in Jordan, Sarah could not let her community know that she was gay. “It was weird, three months before leaving for Peace Corps I was canvassing on the streets of New York City saying ‘hey do you have a second for gay rights?’ and then I am in Jordan and back in the closet. I understood the policy, it was for my own safety.” Homosexuality is decriminalized in Jordan but it is still taboo. “I took Peace Corps seriously. I didn’t mind not disclosing that I’m a lesbian. It was a great experience and I met the girl of my dreams. She was in Peace Corps in Jordan too. We are engaged and getting married in September. At first we weren’t going to announce it on social media because our friends in Jordan are on facebook too. When we did announce it on facebook we received so many loving and supporting messages from Jordan. It was really nice.”