Inspirational role models

As part of our International Women’s Day celebrations, we’ve been asking our Chevening community to share stories about the women who have inspired them most. In this blog, we hear from Dian Maya Safitri.

I would not be who I am today without my mom’s dedication and sacrifice.

She taught me when to care about other people’s opinions, and when to hold my ground.

She taught me to challenge conventional standards of beauty and to be comfortable in my own skin.

She taught me the value of commitment and to take responsibility for myself and my actions.

Her example changed the course of my life.

What about your mother do you admire most?

When I was studying for my undergraduate degree in my home country of Indonesia, I bleached my skin with various products claiming to be “fair and lovely” that would make me look “more beautiful.” Born with tanned skin, all I saw in the media was the glorification of women with lighter skin, despite the fact that there are hundreds of different ethnic groups in Indonesia, all of whom are beautiful.

When I spoke to my mom about the problem, she replied: “Why don’t you re-define the concept of beauty? Surround yourself with people that make you see the beauty inside your brain and heart, as well as your external beauty.”

And she was right. Many years later, I witnessed Lupita Nyong’o win an Oscar, Esther Duflo receive the Nobel prize in Economics, Jessica Cox serve as the first female pilot born without both arms, and Kamala Harris become the first-ever non-white female Vice President of the United States.

How has her example inspired changes in your own life?

When my mom starts a project, she finishes it.

For example, some time after becoming a mother, she made the decision to resign from her senior-level job as a civil servant to be a full-time housewife and take care of me and my siblings. My mom practiced her new job with absolute dedication. She was my doctor when I was sick, my chef with her extraordinary cuisine, a military officer when I needed discipline, and my Maths teacher whenever my Maths skills needed fine-tuning.

Her absolute dedication to the task at hand continues to inspire me to fully commit to the challenges and opportunities in my own life .

When I chose to study Public Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on a Chevening Scholarship, many people laughed at me. The course includes modules in econometrics, but Maths has never been one of my strengths.

Thankfully however, my mom passed on her own fierce determination to me. She told me just to focus on “doing your best to make it happen.” I knew that if I committed wholeheartedly to working hard, if I tried my absolute best, then whatever happened I’d be okay.

Studying econometry at LSE was indeed intense and very challenging for me, but lo and behold, my mom was right (again). I made it happen.

I’m so grateful to my mom for teaching me to believe in myself and to commit to my education; it has made my life so much richer than I ever believed possible.

Many women and girls across the world don’t have equal access to education. Why do you think equal access to education for girls is important?

I’ve previously written an article about why giving women a voice, and listening to what we have to say, is so critical to creating positive change.

Education is one way to give women a voice.

It empowers us to take back a degree of control over our own lives.

It provides opportunities for self-reliance, through access to new types of work and income.

It forges confidence and self-worth.

It opens the door to more choices.

It encourages girls and women to be respected as equals.

So, on this month of International Women’s Day celebrations, I encourage everyone to reflect on the inspirational role models in their own lives, and tell them how much their guidance and support means.

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