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School of Life


I grew up in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

My mother was poor, and we did not watch television or go to movies. I was picked on in school for looking different from the other children, as I was multiracial and my parents were divorced. I didn't have a lot of friends.

Books became the doors to new worlds, and the more I read, the more new worlds opened up for me. I battled with Joan of Arc in France, dreamed with Anne of Green Gables in Prince Edward Island, and was entranced by Scherezade for 101 nights. I imagined myself as these great women, and wanted to live the way they did. These characters were my introduction to feminism; they all were wise, brave and spoke their minds. I wanted to be a writer so that I could create new worlds for myself.

As I grew older, I read more and more. Books about history, art, world religions, and philosophy. Books that made me ask questions. I often wondered where all of the women were in the books that I read...didn't women have a 'herstory' in adult life too?

I had difficult times with my life as a teenager, and I dropped out of school at 16. I was aimless, working in deadbeat jobs and wasting my life.

My reality call was getting pregnant at 18. I kept my baby, but it was difficult to live poor and without a high school education. I worked at several low-paying night jobs until I was lucky enough to find a subsidized daycare spot for my son, which facilitated my working during the day. I joined a union, and eventually became the vice-president of my union Local. I met my husband at a function for our trade union, and now have two sons.
I kept up my reading, and I grew more and more interested in women's rights, labour rights and the peace movement.
The Internet made it easy to find people who were also engaged and involved with these movements; I started joining protests, writing letters to our government, and organizing rallies and events to support the causes I believed in.

I found World Pulse on the Internet while looking for women-positive organizations, and was captivated by the range of stories and the powerful voices of the writers. When I first read about the Voices of the Future program, all I could see was opportunity! I can be honest, angry, nurturing, funny and female...all at the same time. I now realize that I attended my own School of Life, and I have my own story, all while belonging to a global sisterhood.

Women in Canada are much the same as other women around the world - we have families, we need to work, we are fearful of sexual violence and assault, we are concerned about the environment and education, and we need to be heard!



Leina's picture


Your story proofs that where there is a will there is a way.You are an inspiration to me.

Eliana's picture

Thank you, Pax Feminina I can

Thank you, Pax Feminina
I can understand what it means growing up feeling different and being different from the others. They target you. I find it wonderful that you found the world you would like to live in, in books you read. I can understand that because I used to read a lot as a teenager too and still now, it is one of my greatest passions.
Thank you for the example you are giving many of us, that it is possible to make our dreams come true if we believe in them and that for everyone of us there is a path.
Peace to you


Mei Li's picture


: )

Was Pippi Longstocking ever one of your favorites as well? I absorbed strong female characters in books even before I knew I was a feminist or what that word meant! Matilda, Pippi, Ramona Quimby - I adored all of them...most of all Pippi who could not be told what to do by anyone, who could be found in her garden at 11 o'clock, who could toss boys over fences with one arm if she saw them commiting an injustice in the neighborhood, who made pancakes at all ours of the night and rolled cookie dough on the floor, slept at the opposite end of the bed and politely declined the rules of authority figures :)

Your post reminded me of her instantly when you mentioned Joan of Arc...I, too, fought with her in France. Have you read Transgender Warriors? The first chapter mentions her extensively as a transgender warrior of her time...

"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

Amei's picture

You did good - I am "Glad" - Pollyanna

I was going to share my school days with you… and somehow got distracted couple of days ago. I am back again :-)

I was thinking I am glad you had the books - thinking like Pollyanna! I didn’t have books to turn to. It was difficult having brothers at home and going to an all girl school. I do not come from a reading culture. After I left school I took up reading seriously. Some of my all time favourites are Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, Sense and Sensibility, What Kate Did? Recently, Silver Wattle and there are books I love reading and reading over again. I love Harry Potter too.

I wish I thought I was "unique" when I was kid - Now "unique" is positive, "different" tend to have a negative connotation. Now, when I get a chance I tell kids who feel different - I emphasise uniqueness that sometimes helps…

BTW - I grew up in Maldives- an island nation. My island was Male' - the capital island/city of Maldives. I came from a large extended family.

Thanks Pax for posting your story. I will put a journal of how I survived my school days. We all need a helping hand. It is too long to include in this reply. You have encouraged me.

Cheers, Amei

kati.mayfield's picture

pay it forward

Dear Pax,
I think it's fantastic that now, through your writing and your life, are providing the sort of role model for girls and women that you found in your books as a girl. What an excellent way to pay it forward - Joan, Anne, and the rest must be very proud!

*resolved this year to think twice and to smile twice before doing anything*

Frances Faulkner's picture

Knowing Oneself

You have an optimistic, confident voice that seems to come from deep within. I always love hearing that people are inspired by characters in literature, fiction and real life. We look everywhere we can for role models, and sometimes I think there are more out there than we realize! Ultimately, whether we have mentors or not, it is the dedication to improving quality of life for ourselves and for those around us, that gives us purpose, motivation and a way to give back. I appreciate your clarity and drive!


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