Zinti Girls

Exactly five years ago today I boarded a plane in a small South African airport, headed home. My journey as the first white teacher in a rural Zulu school had abruptly ended when the very people who invited me threatened my life. I spent thirty-six terrifying hours waiting to escape. I was exhausted, confused, and grateful to be alive.

Today as I board my flight home I confess that I once again feel disoriented. Not from terror, but in awe of the remarkable events of the past five years.

Shortly after the release of RUBY’S WORLD I met Sizani Ngubane, a fearless and tireless advocate for the rural women of KwaZulu-Natal – the very women I lived among. We began to communicate and before long her organization, the Rural Women’s Movement of South Africa, offered me am ambassadorship.

For the past two weeks Sizani and I have represented the RWM at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. It’s been a whirlwind of panel hearings, forum discussions, and sharing of stories between individuals and NGO’s from around the world. 

My favorite take-away of these past two weeks? Every woman has a story – a powerful story. And giving voice to her story changes a woman. The courage it takes to share intimate details of her life makes her stronger and moves her further into the world.

Bearing witness to these stories also changes the listener. During my time at CSW I cried, laughed, cheered and felt a piece of myself in every other woman’s story – sisters from Egypt, Uganda, Finland, Brazil, Fiji, Ivory Coast, and Estonia.

Sizani is committed to compiling an anthology of the rural Zulu women’s stories to preserve them for future generations who will no doubt have a different experience of Zulu South Africa as women gain ground. I’m honored to be the author/editor for the project. Funding efforts are under way and with perseverance, a dose of divine intervention and a little luck, I will travel to South Africa at the end of the year to spend time with these women to record their stories. (We’re also looking for a photographer/film crew to record the process.)

I’m practicing for this project by putting my money where my mouth is. Scary! Last year I wrote my own story about why and how I went to Africa. Unlocking the Dream reveals the exotic dreams that cured my breast cancer and lead me to the Zulu.

My desire has always been to make a difference in the lives of women and children. Five years ago when I boarded that plane in Africa I felt like a failure.

A lot has happened since then. Today I feel the magic that my “failure” initiated. My secret? Just say YES.

YES to the small voice that whispers implausible suggestions.

YES to absurd opportunities that appear out of nowhere.

YES to the risk of looking like a fool to follow your heart.

YES to letting go of old stories that keep you small.

YES to believing that every life has a purpose.

You might not share my exact passion, but I’ll bet you have one of your own. Act on it. Take one little step toward your dream. Today. Maybe, like me, you tried once and it didn’t work out. But that doesn’t have to be the end of your story.

If I can come back from “defeat” … so can you!