I’ve noticed I alternate between saying it’s hard to be a woman and thinking it’s great. There is the period pain and the glass ceilings – which prevents the advancement of a number of women I know – but the joy of shared sisterhood makes being a woman wonderful.
International Women’s Day makes me pause and wonder whether our very well-developed society is sufficiently developed when it comes to women – our inclusion, advancement, earnings and mobility.
A quick trip to a website on domestic violence shocks me! Intimate partner violence contributes to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor. Postnatal depression is very common. Anti-depressant prescriptions are increasingly being used and from a younger age.
Culturally valuing privacy, individualism and busyness has come at a big cost – I certainly get less time with my girlfriends than a decade ago. We don’t just ‘drop in’ anymore. But when the going gets tough, it’s my girlfriends I want around me: listening, caring unconditionally, walking me through whatever comes my way.
Women supporting women together is just the best!
A few years ago I was able to visit some remarkably supportive women in Nepal and I’ve been teaching about them this week. Today is a great chance to learn from them and also to think about how we’re going as women.
When I met brightly sari-ed women in village circles on mountain tops, they seemed like any bunch of women doing life together – laughing and passing kids around. But I found out they’d never been to school and had been married at 12,13, or14 years of age! They’d had to leave everyone they knew to live in their husband’s village and their work was hard and lonely. When a community development worker first gathered them together, they were all shy and scared.
These Nepalese women weren’t often treated with human dignity, so when they were taught how to sign their names, or to properly count their change so they wouldn’t get ripped off at the market, they stood a little taller. When they started working together, they produced excess crops and brought in a little income. When introduced to government hospitals, pregnancy no longer appeared like such a 50/50 death sentence.
When one woman was beaten to death by her husband, twenty of her female friends gathered and marched to the police station to demand justice. In a patriarchal culture where domestic violence was acceptable and police ignored the poor, this was a triumph!
I told my classes about these women to demonstrate the effectiveness and sustainability of community development work. These women had earned the right for their daughters to go to school and things would never be the same in their villages. When women work together, life gets better.
Over and again these women told us that their togetherness was the greatest gift from the development they had received.
Yesterday I met with a bunch of mothers to pray for our kids. Weekly we share the good and the bad and it really helps. Older parents give tips to younger, and meals are exchanged when someone is sick. Sometimes we can’t fix things, but it’s precisely at those moments that knowing at least we’re doing it together gives us the strength to carry on.
Let’s be part of the growing movement of women seeking to make a change in this world for us, because we matter. There’s a lot that we can do:
- Check in on a girlfriend who is struggling today.
- Join one of the many women’s groups – parenting groups, advocacy groups, sporting groups or business groups. There is power in our solidarity and in our numbers.
- If you interested in shopping in a way that supports women, shop at Thread Harvest from their Empowering Women range. Every purchase from this range helps to provide women with meaningful work, skills development, professional mentoring and fair pay.
Today, let’s remember that together we can be empowered, rise to our best, remove the glass ceilings and simply be extraordinary.