International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. In honor of this day we launched a contest for folks to nominate a woman who works hard to give back to our communities. The top 3 nominees, chosen by our guest panel, received $100 to donate to their charity of choice and a Break the Silence shirt. We are excited to share their inspiring stories.
Sumaira Khalid was nominated by Hajera Azam. Sumaira is an elementary education teacher and through this opportunity has become inspiration and mentor to many people throughout her life.
What helped you to decide your career path in life?
I think in some way I always knew I would be some kind of teacher. My grandmother, mother, and aunts were and some still are involved in education. I remember playing school in the yard with the neighbors when I was young, and I always seemed to be the designated babysitter growing up. I also was lucky to be given many opportunities to work with kids in summer camp programs and pre-school settings. I think this profession sort of picked me, as it just came easy and everything just fell into place. I started in high school volunteering after-school and in the summer, and have been teaching ever since!
At what point (or experience) in your life did you feel that it was important to give back to your community?
It is always important to give back to your community in any way that you can. I don’t think there was any one experience or moment that occurred which influenced that for me. It’s one of things where you don’t realize what you’re doing is important or making a difference until a child or his/her parents you taught, say, 10 years ago, comes up to you and tells you what a difference you made in their life. I have been teaching at my school for 14 years now and luckily am still in touch with many families, some of which I now call friends, and it is so gratifying to see those once 5 year old little ones to what they have become now. I also enjoy seeing that growth in my three nephews. I try to influence them in any way I can, because one day, they too will be influencing their community.
In the same regard, with this race I am doing later this month, it benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), and the team that I am training with have a “mission moment” at the beginning of each session. Someone tells us about a loved one or themselves that is battling a blood cancer and it makes us all come together and realize that there is a bigger race out there. We never know how or what we do will affect others, but we can make sure we affect them in a positive way.
You are one of our inspiring women, but who was or has been an inspiring woman for you?
There are so many inspiring women out there. Like I mentioned earlier, my grandmother, mother, and aunts have influenced my route to education for sure. They also are strong women and clearly led their children and families to become leaders in some way. We all have our own personal spin on it of course, but we all know where we get it from – which parent, aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Also, I have to mention the many strong women I have met through my work. Most of these women work full time, demanding jobs and are able to balance an amazing family life. I can see it in the kids I have had the privilege to encounter everyday in my classroom for years. I try to take a little bit from all these women and adapt it in the way I teach, think, and treat others.
Why do you feel it is important to SPEAK UP against violence against women?
It is so important to speak up against violence against women for so many reasons. First of all it is sad that in 2013 we are even discussing this. It seems that in news reports every so often we heard about violent acts against women and children being committed here and around the world….still. But for those many women being abused, there are just as many, if not more, speaking up and fighting for them. We also see that in news reports all over the world, and that is step in the right direction. It isn’t easy by any means, but it’s happening.
I thank you for the honor of being chosen one of many Exceptional Women….I couldn’t have done it without the women (and children) in my life.
To donate to Sumaira’s fundraising page for the LLS, Please click HERE