Our Director of Advancement and mother of four, Kelly Gage reflects on her recent trip to our India program sites.
What word would you use to describe your most recent trip to India?
Powerful. India always has a way of pulling you into its cultural experience with the richness of its sights, smells, colors, and sounds. Beyond that, it’s really powerful to see our field staff in action at the program sites. Each of them juggles so many hats, yet the love and intentionality they give each woman and girl is so glaringly apparent. The most powerful part is witnessing each woman and girl’s internal power. Nomi Network provides training and job creation opportunities, but the true transformation comes from their inner power. That’s what touches me the most.
During your time in India, you met many mothers who were either enrolled or had graduated from our programs. Despite coming from different backgrounds, how did you connect most with them?
I would never compare my experience as a mother to theirs because they are dealing with adversities that I could never imagine. However, when I meet moms in our programs, I notice that none of them are seeking economic freedom for purely self-serving reasons. It’s really for their families. It’s so they can send their children to school, cover medical procedures for aging parents, or supplement their husband’s income and pay for food or home repairs. They want to overcome cycles of poverty in their families and guarantee their children a better life, especially their daughters. I see the pride in their eyes when they tell me that they now have a voice in their homes, even though these women live in a patriarchal society where wives typically have no say over sending their daughters to school or deciding how to budget family income. They are happy their daughters can see that a mother can also be a breadwinner and a leading voice in her family and community. As a mom and former educator, I can deeply relate to these sentiments, and I value being that same kind of role model to my daughters.
What inspires you most about the mothers in our program?
I have no idea what I’d be like if I were born into their cultures, and I am continually inspired by their courage to step out of a socially prescribed life. The societal systems that keep women oppressed are entirely outside their control, and it takes a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction of those norms. One thing that has stuck out to me recently was a quote from Isabella Wilkerson where she asked how many doctors, researchers, opera singers, and teachers have been lost due to systems of oppression. Each time a mother in our program enrolls or re-enrolls her children in school, she is helping to unlock their potential that would be blocked under the weight of economic vulnerability. Their courage to be more than homemakers and find safe work or start a business will shift systems around them. One of their children may be the scientist who cures cancer, the next great fashion designer, or a loving teacher or parent. All because of that mother’s courage.
What message would you send to the women in our programs this Mother’s Day?
I would tell them that they have taught me so much about tenacity and open-mindedness in their willingness to move beyond their past and current circumstances. I am always inspired by their strength, love, and support towards their families. And I would say HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!