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Published February 28 2014

Linnares: Shine the spotlight on everyday champions

Watching women’s Olympic figure skating last week baffled me. As a former professional dancer and a tropics-loving Brazilian, my mind couldn’t comprehend how these incredible women could dance on ice with knives attached to the end of their shoes.

As we watched, I tried to convince my 7-year-old that she needed to become an Olympian someday. Brazil only had 13 athletes representing at the Sochi Olympics, and besides, I think I would make a great luge cheerleader!

Soaking in the moments of glory of each athlete was a treat, but I know it was only a fraction of the story for each competitor.

Olympic ice skaters spend hours on an empty rink, skating for just themselves and their coaches. No one sees their countless nights dreaming up routines, practicing to perfection and repeating it all again. When they finally appear in competition, they have four minutes to show the world what they have been doing for the past four years.

Watching them make art on ice these past weeks and thinking about the upcoming International Women’s Day pushed my attention to the work that many women around the world do.

A single mom who sings her child to sleep at night after working two jobs, a woman who volunteers at the nursing home and a student who works three jobs to pay for her education all put in the hours to achieve their goals. But they will likely never have their “Olympic moment,” when the lights shine on them and the whole world acknowledges their work and talent.

With the torch extinguished, I looked forward to a celebration of “hidden heroes,” on March 8, when dozens of countries embrace International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate, honor and discuss how we can improve women’s lives around the world.

This holiday began with an accumulation of movements during the 20th Century. The idea was presented in 1910 by Clara Zetkin at International Conference of Working Women in Europe. Different countries began to adopt the holiday on different dates, and the United Nations would hold an International Women’s Day each year until the 1970s when it became a global holiday on March 8.

The holiday itself floods my heart with childhood memories of flowers and honor bestowed on women in Brazil. It is a day to celebrate women, but it is also to see where we are at with the issues of equality.

The fact that I have an opportunity to write this column is because of the hard work of men and women who fearlessly fought for my right to share my voice.

I feel blessed to live in a country where women have an opportunity to share their voices and make a difference, but I can’t forget that in parts of the world, it is undesirable to be a born a women.

Statistics give us a small glimpse of life in other areas. The Global Poverty Project stated 70 percent of the world’s 1.4 billion poor are women and girls.

These facts are not meant to dampen our moods but rather provoke us to act.

Perhaps it is as small as a word of encouragement to somebody. We can make a difference by simply shining the spotlight on one person’s value today.

It is this idea of making an impact on one person’s life that helps me believe that one day International Women’s Day can be a celebration 365 days a year in every culture.

To give honor to every woman is to give her that “Olympic moment” for years of secret labor.

I know we have a long way to go when comes to bringing justice to women around the world, but I hope, as we approach this day, that every woman feels honored and recognized like an athlete in the Olympic games.

Chris Linnares is international author, psychotherapist and founder of Women’s Impact, formerly Diva Connection Foundation. Originally from Brazil, she lives in Fargo with her daughter and husband Bill Marcil Jr., publisher of the Forum. To suggest a woman for this column, email chris@womensimpact.org. For more information on Linnares’ work, visit www.chrislinnares.com.