We wear what we want, talk to who we choose, achieve our goals, and dance freely to the beat of life. We drive to the market for our groceries, do our laundry in electric powered washing machines, and drink clean, purified water from our faucets. We have careers and we urge our daughters to go to college and do the same. As American women we do whatever we can dream about. If you were a woman in Sudan, a day in your life might go differently.

Since most women there don’t go to secondary school, let alone college, your life would be committed to daily work. If you walked down the street there’s a chance you could be harassed by police or security for being improperly covered, traveling without a respectable escort, or walking in a “provocative manner.” In some extreme cases you might be flogged or stoned publicly, or even worse, raped for any of these things.

Many people in Sudan live without electricity, particularly outside of urban areas, and water comes from wells that women sometimes walk far distances to collect. A high rate of illiteracy keeps many, particularly women, from having educational goals and therefore achieving their dreams.

Suddenly it seems like we’ve accomplished a lot here on our side of the pond, doesn’t it?

This month at the SheBreathes Balance and Wellness Studio, we’re proud to exhibit the work of local artist Yvonne Ivinson. After graduating from the University of Aberdeen, Yvonne went to Sudan to work as a British Council appointed teacher of English in a girls’ high school, a place that very few lucky girls end up, hoping to compete for even fewer precious spots in college. The chosen girls appreciated the opportunity and worked hard to learn the language. Those who did not make it through to college went back to their families and their lives of work.

Yvonne’s paintings are beautiful and slightly haunting images of women living under difficult circumstances in Sudan, yet carrying on as expected. Washing laundry, collecting water, weaving baskets, going to market. Completing necessary yet mundane tasks in a land that does not fully appreciate their diligence, grace, and capabilities. To Yvonne these women were strong, beautiful and inspiring, which she has clearly communicated on her canvases.

Yvonne also shared with me that her experience was a totally positive one, despite what the media might lead us to believe. She never witnessed any violence directed towards women or otherwise in the area where she was teaching. And she and her fellow teachers, both female and male were held in great respect. People there were incredibly generous and kind, as well as patriotic and proud of their country. They felt responsible for welcoming foreigners and treating them as special guests. “I was most definitely a recipient of that treatment,” she added. I asked Yvonne if the girls who went to high school and then to college were hoping to escape, to break free of Sudan and their difficult living situations.

“No, I don’t think so,” she said. “The girls were optimistic that they could help make a change and many of them aspired to be teachers.”

This is what we do. We teach, we encourage. We support, we comfort. We come together. Whether it’s to build empowering connections and community at places like SheBreathes, or to improve women’s rights and living conditions in places like Sudan, where women are working towards a better tomorrow.

Please join us at SheBreathes to experience Yvonne’s paintings of the women of Sudan at our artist’s reception on Wednesday, December 14 from 6:30 to 8:30. Please RSVP at www.wbwellness.wpengine.com. This event is free and open to the public.