Women Supporting Women

“Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re strongest when we cheer each other on.”
– Serena Williams
From time to time, I use the hashtag #womensupportingwomen for several of my posts on social media. Currently, on Facebook, approximately 6 million posts have applied this hashtag.
Lately, I have been feeling an overwhelming frustration that the demographic appeal I seem to have online beyond my personal networks, is that of men, whom I have never met from the indo-subcontinent. It’s rather disappointing when a good amount of what you put out there, about your work or your story or the stories of others is in part to connect to other women or just know that you are there for them. I just needed to share this, because it is something that has been disturbing me now for some time. Because that appeal has nothing to do with my heart or my brain or my personhood, as a woman. It is entirely what’s on the surface. And I think other women can relate to that, even if they have stronger social capital and social networks.
For some time now, I have been trying to explore opportunities where I can support, mentor, and just be there for other women and girls, particularly from underrepresented backgrounds, and especially during some moments in the past year and more actively the past few months. It is partly why I started this blog too, many years ago.
Sometimes these opportunities have been there, right in front of you the whole time.
I feel everything I have been working towards is a waste if it does not support others or does not make things better for others, especially for the women and girls that would see it fit to follow me.
Because I know there are other “little Elsa’s” out there similarly fighting to “cure stigma” and break out from the barriers, both internal and external, preventing them from reaching their fullest potential and producing beautiful contributions in service to humanity and the world.
And there are lots of lessons learned and resources I have wanted to impart.
But then I remember the pride and stubbornness and ambition within me. But that never stopped me from looking up to women before me and seeing them as an inspiration to me. That never stopped me from crediting them, from aspiring for their support and mentorship. Though I have been hesitant to ask for help and ask questions. But I think that hesitancy gives me the awareness that there might be other women struggling, hesitating to ask for support and help, and feeling they have to do everything on their own, just like me. I just want to make it better for them, because I know the pain too well, of having to walk alone. 
More than that, there is immense love, compassion, empathy and care suppressed within me at times…which I feel might be of value to someone else who really needs it… I signed up for a couple different mentorship programs over the years and it never panned out. Recently, I was almost matched through a program with an Afghan sister who was studying in Islamabad, where I would help her apply to graduate programs and scholarships abroad, particularly in the US, but an emergency happened and she had to return to Afghanistan with her family.
I believe I could be a resource to support other women, especially from all sorts of challenging circumstances, to push through and overcome their challenges, or at least be there for them, if I am needed, Like a “big sister” role.
Perhaps because of my challenges related to mental health, I cannot always be there, be a “big sister”, the “baji”, who can be supportive. I am still recovering from my previous life (fighting for my doctorate), still getting my life back together, still trying to put that oxygen mask on, before I can help put it on for others. It is okay that you may need time to heal, time to recover, and sometimes more than others.
But at the same time, no matter what you are going through, if you have compassion and love in your heart, you will show up for someone else. I have found myself naturally in those positions, even when I am struggling myself. I think that is so important to help get you out of your mind and your struggle sometimes. It really has a profound impact on your psyche. And taking on mentorship roles, especially when you know you can be resourceful, can do wonders for your soul while giving back to others without anything substantive in return.
I’d like to be the mentor that I wanted so badly and never had, for someone else. Perhaps in the process, we must let go and transition out of the sadness, by proactively stepping outside ourselves, and help bring perspective by supporting others.
I consider it a crucial character-building exercise, doing something beyond yourself, without anything in return.
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“I never really wanted to be a girl. I wanted to be a woman.” – Diane Von Furstenburg
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Empowerment is not a natural thing. It is a learned skill. Some of it can happen naturally. But much of it is learned.
Sometimes a divine force intervenes with opportunities to be there for your sisters in ways we don’t expect, and sometimes we have to let it emerge naturally and with time.
Sometimes it means dropping the things you need to get done, to embrace your sister when something has gone wrong for them.
When I was younger, I let it hurt me too much… when I would sacrifice so much of my time and/or give so much to others, without feeling any love returned most of the time. Maybe it is a sign of maturity now that I either let them go or stay away from those situations. Maybe I choose “isolation” as a result of it sometimes. It is harder for those of us who have pursued unconventional paths. It does not mean that I stop loving my sisters. It does not mean that I stop wanting to be in their company.
I have said this before, that good leaders are leaders who see “leaders” in other leaders.
Sometimes that means having to stand in the sidelines, taking the hits, and the punches, and the kicks in the stomach for others, letting others take credit for your work or helping others without taking credit, without losing your empowerment, and sometimes it involves cheering from down in the trenches.
In turn, if that means uplifting another woman (especially my sisters from underprivileged or underrepresented backgrounds) struggling and fighting in a world that either hates everything about her simply because of the way she looks, talks, walks, breathes, dreams, and loves, or is extremely unwelcoming to her because of all the above, than so be it.
And we are not weak for asking or needing help. It is actually a sign of strength and courage. We are not weak for needing to cry or express sadness or anger. It is okay if you relapse. You are not a “less than” if you ask for help. Especially if you pay it forward to another sister.
What we need to do is create and sustain a SISTERHOOD WITHOUT BOUNDARIES, with the recognition and awareness of the boundaries that are too often created and sustained by women themselves.
The hashtag “women supporting women” means “women supporting women”. There are indeed divisions. Always. There will be differences. Always. White women may never understand the types of microaggressions that black and brown women confront on a daily basis. And just because you are woman, doesn’t mean you automatically deserve support and encouragement. I don’t mean to say that.
I just don’t think we should let our differences get in the way of being there for one another. And we should recognize that we need to do better at being there for one another. I am just saying generally, I’d like to see it mean something more than just a “hashtag,” and I’d like to see more of it in a positive, meaningful way. I’d like us to apply the tools of compassion, love, empathy more in our lives, and break through the walls that we put up due to cultural norms reinforced by the patriarchy.
I am not stating anything novel here. I am just another woman putting another important reminder out there: I am here to fix your crown if it feels crooked, and I would be grateful to any other Warrior Queen who would fix mine. 
“When women support each other, incredible things happen.” – Emma Kate Dawson. 
Peace, warmth, and blessings,
Your sister,
Dr. Elsa
Warrior KQueen
“She wasn’t looking for a Knight. She was looking for a Sword.”

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