History month honors women’s achievements

2nd Lt. Ashley Gee
Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.

If there was ever one thing that my mom taught me, it was to be self sufficient.
“Never be in a position where you have to rely on someone else to take care of you,” she always told me.
Being just a child romping in the jungles of Nigeria, I never really understood what she was talking about or where she was coming from, I just knew I had to try hard and give 100 percent at what I did.
Eventually that mentality got me through the U.S. Air Force Academy and led to becoming an officer and lady in the Air Force.
A few weeks ago, I saw an e-mail about Women’s History Month. The thought occurred that I had never heard of such a thing. Was there really a month that celebrated women and their achievements? Well just about everything has a month, or a day at least, so it was entirely possible.
The whole idea sparked thoughts of my life as a young girl in Africa to now being a female second lieutenant in the Air Force.
Nigeria, where I once lived, in itself is an amazing place with a people and culture unlike anywhere else in the world. That being said, the life of a woman in Nigeria is vastly different than anything you could imagine here in the United States.
Nigerian women were expected to bear the children, plant the cassava fields and take care of their family with very little recognition for how much they did.
Education for children was not the primary concern for most families and, if you were a girl, that might mean you didn’t get one at all.
Most privileges were given to the boys first and then the girls. I watched the majority of my childhood schoolmates go to arranged marriages before they had a chance to finish any of their schooling.
The rules didn’t always apply to men and women in the same way either. It is perfectly normal for the men to be promiscuous but if a woman were to be that way, she would face harsh repercussions.
While that seems terrible, there were many lessons about life and freedom to be learned through the Nigerians. Among those lessons, I was taught kindness and humility.
I learned to respect those women in the fields and never take life for granted. Most of all, I learned how to appreciate what I had and to work hard for what I wanted.
When my family moved back to the United States during my high school years, I faced a complete culture shock. My world had been turned upside down, but two things would remain constant: work hard and give my all.
Everywhere I looked, there were equal opportunities for anyone who was willing to work hard. I saw the ground work that had been laid beforehand, some 22 years earlier by the first graduating class of women in 1980.
It showed the perseverance, dedication and character of all the women who had come before me, not just at the Academy but throughout the United States.
It is amazing to think that our great nation was at one time not so different from Nigeria. It lends a whole new appreciation for those who came before us and opened the doors for limitless opportunities, not just for women, but for anyone who is willing to work hard and give 100 percent.