The past two years have afforded us the luxury of a lot of family time. In my family, a lot of this time has been spent in freewheeling discussions on topics all and sundry, sometimes starting with whether unicorns are real and ending with how the stock markets work. One such conversation had my nine-year-old daughter ask what being a feminist really meant. My husband had an audience-appropriate reply: it means believing in girl power.

This #International Women’s Day, I’ve given some thought to what ‘“girl power”’ means to me, and I believe it signifies grit, determination, spirit, and a sense of purpose and adventure. And who do I think embodies girl power?

  • Marge, the crossing guard near my daughter’s school — the kids at school are convinced that she saw the pilgrims when they first arrived on these shores on the Mayflower (I’ve also heard rumors that she was around when dinosaurs prowled the Earth); it’s debatable whether she saw the pilgrims and the dinosaurs, but what’s certain is that it takes mettle to be outdoors, on your feet, day after day, come rain, snow or sun (and in New Jersey, we get a LOT of each) to help school kids cross the street, and to greet every child with a smile and every parent with a joke.
  • Julia Albu, who is sadly no more, but who became famous for being the plucky 80-year-old South African who decided that life was too short to not have an adventure. She embarked on a road trip across Africa in her trusty 1997 Toyota Conquest (‘Tracy’) all by herself after her husband’s death. She breezed through border checkpoints announcing that she was on her way to “have tea with the Queen of England”, and she and Tracy encountered everything from elephants and tourists to dirt tracks and pothole-ridden roads in their bid to get to Cairo. She flew back home from there to rest briefly, before taking off again, driving through Europe this time to get to London (no, she didn’t meet the Queen), and then driving across Africa a second time because the alternative of just sitting on the sofa wasn’t appealing.
  • My female co-workers who are trailblazers in a historically male-dominated industry. 
  • My mum, who happily moved and set up home in a new place every couple of years (my dad’s work took him — and us — all over India). She made it look effortless, but it must have taken a lot of energy, ingenuity, planning and organization to be able to pull it off every time. 
  • Working mothers, who spend all waking hours multi-tasking, wearing different hats and being productive — and never was this ability to multi-task tested more vigorously than during the pandemic. 
  • Women who are dreamers, thinkers and doers.
  • All those amazing role models at school, at home and in the news who inspire little girls to broaden their horizons. 

Finally, I asked my kids what ‘girl power’ meant to them and who they think of when they hear this phrase.

My fourth grader said Malala Yousafzai, the now 24-year-old Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and she added that girl power meant being unstoppable. 

My four-year-old said she thinks of herself when she hears the phrase, and to her it meant that “all girls are Supergirls”. Touché!

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