This year, International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th of March. This is not a recent happening. International Women’s day first occurred in 1911 and was supported by over one million people. Numbers have increased hugely since then. International Women’s Day doesn’t belong to any specific organisation, country or group.
The theme is year is: ‘An equal world is an enabled world’.
What does this mean? To me, it means that all individual persons should be equally recognised for their strengths and given the opportunity to use these productively for the betterment of themselves, their community and for the world.
It is true that on our own, we are all responsible for what we do and what we think. That can be a struggle at times – and lonely. Collectively we have much more strength. Collectively we have more chance in creating a gender equal world – and that is good for everyone.
We all know women who we value and admire. For me personally these are the lovely women in my family and my good friends, passed and alive, who have influenced me positively with their love. However other woman that I admire are:
- Kate Sheppard, New Zealand’s famous suffragette, campaigned for Kiwi women going to the polls for the first time in the 1893 general election. Don’t’ forget that until this time, not all men had the vote, only those who owned land. Kate Sheppard’s hard work brought about votes for all adult women – and men. That was true equality.
- Dame Whina Cooper was a highly respected kuia who dedicated her life fighting for Māori land rights. As a very old woman she led the 1975 land march from Te Hāpua (in the far north) to Parliament in Wellington. I remember watching this on the TV news. She was foundation president of the Maori Women’s Welfare League, and her work helped to greatly improve living conditions.
- Joy Cowley is a prolific writer particularly of children’s books. Some of Joy’s books include the very funny ‘Mrs Wishy-Washy’ which I used to read to my class of New Entrants when I was teaching. The children loved this story. They would laugh and say ‘Read’ it again’. She also wrote the deeply moving ‘The Silent One’. She can write with incredible humour, empathy and sensitivity.
- Jacinda Ardern, when she was elected as our Prime Minister, said that she believed in the value of kindness. This was particularly shown immediately following the 15th of March last year when 51 people were fatally shot and 49 injured in two mosque attacks in Christchurch. Who can forget the photo of her hugging a grieving Muslim woman? Jacinda comes from an ordinary background, was raised in Morrinsville and is the daughter of a policeman. Commenting on being Prime Minister at age 37 she said, “I feel very privileged.”
- And who can forget Jeanette Fitzsimons, co-leader of the Green party of Aotearoa New Zealand from 1995 for 2009 who died just a few days ago? I was listening to the radio after I heard the news of her death, and it was reported that some MPs had once discussed what MP they would like to look after their kids if they were away. Apparently, all agreed without question that it would be Jeanette Fitzsimons.
We are all flawed and imperfect but for me kindness and love are tremendous influential and powerful qualities.
As the actress Audrey Hepburn said:
“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.”