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I am surrounded by inspiring women every day. Having lost my amazing father at 17, and never really growing up with a grandfather, I am particularly close to the women in my life; my grandmother, my mother and sister, my aunties and my friends. Each of them inspires me in different ways. From overcoming hurdles like illness, grief, career challenges and the difficulties that come with raising families. Through the ups and downs, they guide me through their experiences and have taught me valuable life lessons.
I have had conversations with my grandmother who took me on a birthday safari trip 8 years ago in Zambia and bared her 80 years of life stories of moving from South Africa at age 18 on a ship to Europe, then onto Australia, and eventually spending half her time in Indonesia. She owned multiple successful businesses and planned exciting, ridiculously adventurous trips with her friends up until the age of 80 (her most recent was a month around Russia after being diagnosed with brain cancer). I remember leaving Africa feeling so inspired to see more of the world and, like her, take risks.
On the other hand, I have also had harder conversations with friends who are struggling with fertility issues and miscarriages that are far too close to due dates; women who are trying to juggle everything; like being a new mum whilst having a career. And on the other hand, I have had long conversations with women on the complexities and judgement involved in choosing not to have children. Being a woman can be damn hard - and these are just some of the challenges we, as women, face, least not to mention some of the other issues that have sparked ongoing movements like #metoo. We have come a long way in the western world at least, with movements like the aforementioned, #metoo, and popular tv shows like The Morning Show, Working Mums, and Grace & Frankie being thrust into mainstream viewing; but we still have a while to go.
I still feel like the word ‘feminist’ can leave a bitter taste in the mouth for many and be attached to a lot of negativity. Whilst I don’t consider myself a feminist, I really believe in equality. The thing is, you don’t have to be a feminist to want to encourage a change towards just that. More and more people are becoming aware that push-back on some of these thought-provoking issues is necessary. At the end of the day, all days like International Women’s Day are just searching for every human to feel like an equal. And doesn’t everybody deserve equality?
What I didn’t really know - and feel quite ignorant for not knowing - is much about the meaning behind International Women’s Day. So, if like me, you want to be more informed, let’s dive into the details and look at some women who are in the limelight battling to make changes towards equality!
International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on March 8th and actually dates back to 1911 where the first gathering took place. With the growth and capabilities of social media, it now has a much larger platform to gain traction and buzz, with each year having a new focus to spread; this year being #eachforequal. It doesn’t hurt that they have supporters and collaborators like Amazon, McDonalds and North Face!
Even though IWD is a singular day, as the name states, they aim for it to be a yearlong movement for change. According to the IWD page, they are not specific to a country, group, or organisation; anyone can take part and be involved!
IWD celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, but also calls for change. These focuses are on gender equality in:
· The boardroom
· Media coverage
· Sports coverage
· Health and wealth
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping-stone to greatness.”
Oprah Winfrey has been beyond generous in her journey of success. Not only has she been inspirational in the platform she has built through the Oprah Show, but in 2007 she founded the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. It is a company based in South Africa that gives opportunities to bright girls with financially disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Every woman's success should be an inspiration to another. We're strongest when we cheer each other on.”
I am sure she needs no introduction. Serena Williams has a powerful voice in the sports world. Not only does she represent strength and power through her athleticism, she has also been pivotal to the conversation around women in sports being valued equally among their male counterparts.
“The beauty of being a feminist is that you get to be whatever you want. And that's the point.”
If you didn’t know, Shonda Rhimes is using her voice through some of the most popular tv shows in the industry. She is the writer and producer of shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder. She takes pride in putting strong, diverse, powerful women into roles within the shows. She also seeks to represent other diverse communities.
Her company, Shondaland, an all-encompassing multi-media content production house that advocates the self-empowering, feminist messages of her biggest shows, launched in 2017. Among publishing essays, articles, videos, and podcasts that aim to create a community and encourage action, it signed a US$100 million deal with streaming giant, Netflix.
“We need to live in a culture that values; and respects; and looks up to; and idolizes women as much as men.”
Watson, the British child actress most known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, was appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador in 2014. Since then, she has become a spokeswoman for the HeForShe campaign, advocating for girls’ education around the world and gender equality.
"Becoming a mother has made me more aware of the struggles of women and children throughout the world… I am happy to be joining the UN Foundation and eager to lend my voice and ensure that all girls and women are safe, healthy, educated, and empowered”.
Above, is Lopez’s speech after becoming UN’s first global advocate for girls and women. She has continuously used her platform to advocate for positive change and along with her sister, created the Lopez Foundation to improve health and education access for women and children globally.
“I don't know a woman alive who isn't courageous.”
We all know actress Reese Witherspoon from her role in Legally Blonde. But most recently, she has been making some amazing changes in the production world. Whether it’s through her role behind-the-camera or in-front of it, she has been growing the diversity of women portrayed on film and TV, ensuring there remains plenty of strong female protagonists on-screen (if you’re like me, you also LOVED Big Little Lies).
She's also involved in projects of advocacy such as YWCA, UN Women, and Time's Up.
“My first instinct is great pride for all of us as women who are finding our voices.”
Keys created one of the decade’s most renowned feminist anthems, ‘Girl on Fire’ in 2012. Having received Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for her activism, she also decided to stop wearing any makeup, stating: “I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”
The 15-time Grammy winning singer-songwriter also co-founded Keep a Child Alive for families affected by HIV in India and Africa; the We Are Here Movement for criminal justice and gun reform; and was a speaker at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.
“I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.”
Scholar, activist, poet, singer, author, actress, dancer, and all-round renaissance woman, Maya Angelou, has been quoted on every platform available for good reason. She was the first African American woman to write a screenplay for a film, 'Georgia, Georgia' - which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize (she also composed the score!). Her poem, Phenomenal Woman, 1978, also made history as the first non-fiction bestseller by an African American woman. Many of her award-winning written pieces advocated for human rights and encouraged the growth and development of women who feared speaking up on their beliefs.
“I want more girls to be able to see themselves behind the camera creating images we all enjoy, and I want to call attention to the fact that women directors are here all over the world.”
Ava Duvernay is a trailblazing filmmaker most known for her 2015 film about Martin Luther King Jr., ‘Selma’. In 2018, She was awarded the Woman of Vision Award which celebrates the creative and technical achievements of women in media, and her work has made her the highest grossing African American female director in American box-office history. She started her own film distribution company called ARRAY, which focuses on racial and gender inclusion in the film industry and her latest Netflix miniseries, ‘When They See Us’, received 16 Emmy nominations and was the most watched series daily in the U.S.
“I wanted to be a part of telling women there is no segregation. There is no need to ever not feel beautiful or glamorous. There should be nothing that gets in your way.”
Known for her role as Tahani on hit tv show, ‘The Good Place’, Jamil, who suffered eating disorders and body dysmorphia, has used her platform to advocate for body positivity and famously, albeit controversially, speaks out against the weight loss product industry. In 2018, she launched a social initiative called ‘I Weigh’, where women post images of themselves with admirable qualities that don’t have anything to do with the number on the scale. Having been a fashion model who still appears in front of the editorial camera often, she forbids any retouching of her photos.
I hope that this has made you feel more educated and inspired. Equality for the win! Happy International Women's Day 💕
Shani Kaplan is a contributing writer for Truth Naturals. She combines her knowledge gained from working within the fitness/wellness industry in Sydney and London for the last seven years as a Personal Trainer, and class instructor, with her addiction to research due to her BA in Business Marketing. Shani loves martial arts, resistance training, dance and yoga, nutrition, travel, design, photography, and art.