International Women’s Day (or United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace) is held annually on 8 March to honour iconic women who have made a change in history from all over the world. It may not be a public holiday, but it is a day where women are given the praise and recognition they deserve in the media, at work, and at home.
As exciting and motivating as International Women’s Day may be, it won’t put an immediate end to patriarchy, misogyny, homophobia, gender-based violence, or the gender pay-gap. In fact, there’s a 99% chance that I’ll get catcalled on my way back home today, 8 March. However, the point of this international holiday isn’t to serve as some sort of 24-hour nirvana where we pretend that all battles have been won. We’re fully cognisant of our historically dire position in the world, but there’s joy to be found in this current wave of feminist liberation that is slowly gaining traction with each woman-led movement, achievement, and victory (big or small).
This is why today we’re highlighting three major steps forward for feminism in 2018. From Mattel creating a new range of role model Barbies to a celebration of courageous women in the face of adversity, every kind of woman has a story to tell, and that’s why today’s #InternationalWomensDay worldwide hashtag is so significant.
‘Inspiring Women’ Barbies
We’ve come a long way since the days when we were little black girls playing with our blonde-haired Barbie dolls, cutting their fringes, plaiting their hair, and washing it with a green Sunlight bar all in an attempt to make it as versatile and malleable as ours. We desired her Aryan features so badly, but the closest we could get to emulating her aesthetic was by wearing our little size 12 pink/purple Barbie mules.
But Mattel has changed that by introducing a range of Barbies in their ‘Inspiring Women’ series, which honours Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart and Katherine Johnson as well as living legends such as Chloe Kim, Patty Jenkins, Ava DuVernay, and Misty Copeland. These figures will instill a different kind of motivation in the minds of young children – that they can be valued beyond their superficial beauty and that they can be anything.
Lisa McKnight, the senior vice president and general manager of Barbie, said in a press release, ‘As a brand that inspires the limitless potential in girls, Barbie will be honouring its largest line up of role models timed to International Women’s Day, because we know that you can’t be what you can’t see.’
This #InternationalWomensDay, @Barbie is shining a light on more female role models than ever before. Introducing the largest addition to the Barbie Sheroes line to date – meet the new Global Sheroes that have been honored with one-of-a-kind dolls. Share your role models with us to help inspire more girls using #MoreRoleModels. #IWD2018
Celebration of courage
‘Mother of Courage – uMama Onesibindi’ is a collaborative project with UNICEF – an exhibition which celebrates courageous women across Africa in the face of adversity. The exhibition launched on World Aids Day 2017 at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, and opens today in Cape Town at the Young Blood Gallery, featuring conversations with Karin Schermbrucker and Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe as well as poetry by Koleka Putuma.
Given the fact that in Africa, young women and girls are the most affected by HIV and AIDS, and the fact that struggling, poverty-stricken women are a normalised phenomenon in Africa, where these women are just considered ‘stats’, this photographic tribute acknowledges how these women are in fact doing the extraordinary by still fighting to exist in a system which was clearly set up to break them.
‘My hope is that you will meet these remarkable women, and connect with them, so that statistics are no longer numbers, but real people, with real stories, and a deeply humbling strength. As I reflect on my time with these women, and trail through their portraits, I am reminded that photographing people is about taking the time to see the person, to hear where they come from, and to be interested in where they are going,’ says Karin.
Building Women Champions
Women can’t drive? Women aren’t good with numbers? You can’t make a living from blogging?
Professional golfer Le-Anne Pace, entrepreneur Connie Mashaba, Baked Online blogger Aisha Baker, and Investec Property’s head of marketing are all women who have successfully debunked those stereotypes, as leading women in their respective fields. Earlier this week these drivers in building women champions sat in a panel discussion hosted by TV and radio presenter Redi Tlhabi at Cape Town’s Investec offices as part of Investec’s hopes to shine a spotlight on how women can contribute towards the progression of the gender agenda.
In a room full of women with eager minds, ready to engage and better themselves, this is what we took home from the conversation;
Know your worth
In golf – a male-dominated sport – female professional golfers are paid 10% of what their male counterparts are. Pace is of the opinion that although this is unfair, women’s golf has grown exponentially in the past five years and will continue to do so, closing this pay gap.
In light of this, Connie Mashaba said ‘Everyone is fighting a unique battle under different circumstances. Find ways to command the respect you deserve and communicate your strengths without fighting.’
Take strategic risks
‘As someone once said, it takes years to become an overnight success and I am not there yet.’ Aisha Baker
Leave a legacy
‘We can all be champions. The world is big enough.’ Redi Tlhabi
Educate yourself continually
‘Learning every day is exciting and inspiring, allaying fears about the future. We have daily opportunities to make an impact and embrace change. The future is a part of us, so see the opportunity in it.’ Danni Dixon
All the speakers agreed that the conversation about building women champions needs to include more people having discussions every day: open yourself up to others and the challenges you face as women, seek out those who inspire you and form communities.
May we continue to be inspired and keep fighting the good fight even after International Women’s Day.