When Getting an Education Seems Like an Elusive Dream

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” – Brigham Young.

An educated woman is an empowered individual who can go forth to rewrite her own history to tell her truth and her story. However, she is often seen as a threat to those whose objectives are to keep her dependent, socially and economically disempowered, and broken. Someone once said to me, “Nothing stops the person who stops at nothing to achieve a dream.” The achievement of a dream is not realized in silos. And often, I wonder if dreaming is enough, if envisioning a future where women and girls are truly liberated is enough, if using my voice and my pen is enough, and if lobbying for change will indeed bring about a change.

The reality is, many women across the globe face severe hardships that reduce them to porous vessels. They live such horrors that when they tell their stories it sounds unbelievable. Many times, their vulnerabilities are abused, their emotions and physical spaces are violated, and they are looked upon as second-class citizens. The color of the woman’s skin and her consequences due to her experiences of violent attacks against her makes it much harder to rise from the ashes of pain.

I have told my story of abuse on many occasions. Even though I thrive at times, the pain is still hard to bear. Abuse transformed me and left a strong sting of pain. Sometimes, forgetting gives a moment of peace, and it allows me to remove the self-shame and repulsion I have for my body. It also moves me to embrace defeat, because fighting takes too much. I have not allowed my pain to take charge of my life, however. I have used my experience as a stepping stone and not as an excuse. I have pushed hard, and in my years of pushing, I have learned that life pushes back to break you into a million pieces.

Every victim has their own story. However, we are connected because we are women. We have an unseen bond because we understand the pain of violation and rejection. I have fought all my life to survive, I have fought to forge ahead. I have fought to become greater than my experiences. Sadly, sometimes fighting is not enough, as one of the tools used to further break the spirits of women is the development opportunity gap. Nothing can attach more pain to a wounded soul than seeing an opportunity, having it offered, yet not being able to grasp it due to socioeconomic disempowerment, which undermines even the greatest abilities and the most intelligent mind.

As a woman living in the developing world, I must push harder. I never walked an easy road academically, and the only people I blamed for my challenges were the ones who abused me and those who looked on and did nothing. There is no greater crime than to keep silent during times of human rights violations, wars and conflicts, and when a child’s innocence is being stolen.

In March of this year, I was granted a double scholarship from the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada. When I received the offer, I was moved to tears. Being a woman advocate from a developing country, I saw an opportunity to receive training that would enhance my work, expose me to international best practices, and by extension, help me to reach and empower hundreds of women.

After reflecting upon this offer, sadness took over. Economically, it was not possible to realize this dream. International professionals saw an emerging leader in me, but I saw obstacles, even though the university offered an 85% bursary.

Then, with a spark of inspiration, I began to write letters and send out emails making a case for support. With each rejection letter, I bounced back to send two more. However, the process began to drain me. I remember writing to the university and informing them of my challenges, and one sentence in their response revived me: “We are looking out for you.” This motivated me to push harder. After all, nothing had ever been handed to me and this time was no different. A friend joined in and opened a fundraising campaign for me. The days are counting down and I have no online donations as of yet, but I still have hope in the human spirit.

Through this storm, I shall rise. Above the negative spirits, I shall rise. And with your help, I shall walk that graduation stage with my head high and shout: “Still I rise, though my back is bruised, still I RISE!”

To support Sherna’s efforts to pay for her education and empower women worldwide, please check out: https://www.gofundme.com/shernas-scholarship-fund

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About the Author | Sherna Alexander Benjamin

Sherna Alexander Benjamin is a thriving survivor, human rights and women's rights activist and believes that in the power of The Sisterhood to usher in a world where women are liberated, educated, empowered and challenge the norms which seeks to keep them imprisoned.

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