When I read recently of the diminishment of women in areas of the world, the phrase struck me in an odd way, such that I thought to look up the origins of that word. Diminish, I learn, comes from a Latin root, minutia, having to do with minor details of negligible importance. It knocked me over the head, this visual—knowing how many places in the world want to make women smaller, and, in doing so, less valuable. I picture half the world's resources shrunk down and belittled, turned into minor details—when in fact we need their expansive minds and spirits more than ever.
In Nigeria, Hassana Yusuf and a group of 35 women are gathering in their bright new workspace, made possible by the Ibu Foundation. Together, they're creating a line of chambray caftans with their traditional needlework running trellises and mandalas over its surface. The world wants to diminish these women, finding them poor, without resources; thinking them small.
But when they are together, when they are working for their lives and livelihood, when their skills and resources are invited into a space large enough to hold them, when their imagination and creativity are lit, the opposite happens. Women rise. Their worlds enlarge.
This is the thing that matters to me. More than preserving this handsome heritage skill, however much I love it. More than putting money in their hands, however essential. This other thing is what I live for: to fight the forces that want to make women small. To elevate, fortify, and invigorate these remarkable beings until they cast aside the small story they've been told their whole lives and begin to know their own amplitude.
That's what's happening here in Zaria City, Nigeria, and in pockets all over the world. The powers that be may think these women are simply earning a living. But really, they are earning a life. Subversively, stitch by tiny stitch, they are employing their own inner resources, expanding their skills, supporting one another, and, in all of that, growing an unbounded sense of the possible.
This is about us, too, of course. As we link arms with these brave souls, it’s about stretching the height and breadth of our being. It's about planting our own best selves in the world and allowing them to flourish. Women, everywhere: this is the opposite of diminishment. This is the making of your life. And I mean, for the good of all: why not make it big?
All the Best,