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Women are all the same...

Di in Sulawesi

by DI BOWLES

It sounds obvious but I first realised women have the same priorities and desires when I went on my own “Eat, Pray, Love” trip around the world. It started in the same way as Elizabeth Gilbert’s trip in the book – completely self-absorbed. I had been moving up the corporate ladder in the US. But I needed something more, something bigger in my life.

So, I sold my house and headed out on the backpacker trail. I was fascinated to find that the women I met in each country I visited all talked about the same things. I met a wonderful woman in Nairobi, and our conversation ended up with her telling me about her boyfriend. “Does he love me? Will he ask me to marry him?” I remember so many nights with my girlfriends and a few glasses of wine talking about the same thing!

When I reached India, I met a group of women who were talking about how they wanted a better life. But they were most passionate when they talked about wanting to help their children to get more schooling. They didn’t want them to live the same way they did – just trying to get through each day.

In Thailand I was invited to dinner with some amazing female entrepreneurs and after talking a bit about business the conversation turned to how hard it is to find a good pair of jeans! How many times have we talked to our friends about that?

Then it was off to Indonesia. In Sulawesi I saw the sea gypsies – people who live in small bamboo huts in the ocean and use Coke bottles as goggles for fishing. This was the moment when I started thinking – how are their lives like this, and how do I have all the creature comforts in the world?

My trip had become more of a discovery about what life was really about – not just nice beaches and the next “cool” place to visit.  I realised I had won the “lottery of life.” Where I was born had given me all the opportunities in the world, and I owed a big thank you to my parents.

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My trip finished in Australia where I (of course) had arranged to meet up with this cute Aussie guy I had met two years previously in the States (a whole other story). I decided to see how things went. (With the Nairobi woman’s words echoing in my mind: “Does he like me?”) Turns out he did. He’s now my husband and we have a beautiful 7 year old son.

I couldn’t go back to the corporate world. I’d made a vow to myself that I would find a way to help my fellow sisters – the women who were just like me, who just needed a bit more education and a helping hand to get them going.

After volunteering with a few different organisations, I helped found Good Return, and our mission is just that – to fight poverty with education and microfinance. It is my passion to get other women to reach out and help other women who are exactly like them.

A bonus: Working at Good Return has been a lesson in parenting too. When my son says he’s bored, instead of fireworks going off in my head as I look at the toys all over the floor, I tell him about all the kids who have no toys and who have to work in rice fields instead of going to school. When he tells me he doesn’t like what’s for dinner, instead of using the old “this isn’t a restaurant” line, I pull out the pictures of the women and their children that I met during my trip, and tell him how lucky he is to have three meals and snacks every day.

He might roll his eyes and “oh, Mom” me, but I know he’ll get the message one day, and be truly grateful for the lottery of life that he won by being born here in Australia. I’m so glad that I can give him everything he needs to succeed in life – and after all, isn’t that what every mum wants?

Di Bowles works at Good Return, an Australian charity that provides microfinance and education to women in the Asia Pacific. Find out more at www.goodreturn.org

 

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