Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day – more specifically, the 100th year in which we are commemorating it. This day was established in 1911 by the United Nations to draw attention to the situation of women, the inequality of their situation and the acknowledgement of their contributions to society. 100 years on and the need for this day is still, more than ever, necessary. In so many countries women continue to be at the short end of the stick and more importantly continue to have their human rights violated, their dignity denied and their opportunities restricted. In today’s increasingly globally intertwined world women are on the one hand recognised as the potential motors for positive change, yet are simultaneously confronted by additional challenges which undermine their efforts. On a global scale, that is the situation.
On a personal level, I have just returned from a trip to the US where I had the honour and privilege of commemorating another 100 years. That of my great Aunt, my children’s great Grand Aunt, a woman who has herself overcome, confronted and risen above the challenges women face(d). She did this not on a grand world scale, getting herself into history books and the like – rather in her own quiet, committed, dedicated and personal manner. She was among the first women to operate computers while working with BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation, now BA) in New York – rising in the office from Secretary to Office Manager and Bookings Agent. She witnessed soldiers returning from the war, traveled on planes which are a far cry from the aircrafts we now travel in, never married yet cared for her siblings children whenever she could, lived with her sister until her passing, and has always been the constant in the family. She shared some secrets with me this past visit, which have to be an essential part of why she is still with us.
- Acceptance: accept the differences in others, respect them, and avoid unnecessary conflict.
- Be penny & pound wise: buy what you need, save for what you may need and share with others what they need.
- Have faith: whatever the religion have a guide to comfort and advise you, know you are not alone.
- Be curious: learn and keep learning for without education there are no opportunities.
- Don’t let others tell you what you can or cannot do, know that you can, prepare, retrain if need be and do it!
This is a woman who for the first time, this year, had someone else do her taxes! She still lives on her own, follows her own advice and granted us, her family – three generations of it – the opportunity to learn first hand what 100 years of being a woman is. This is a woman whose own curiosity and drive to learn is still actively present. She was not intimidated by being presented with an opportunity to play the piano on an iPad – she was not even phased. With all the change she has witnessed, been a part of, she had learned to accept (and teach us) that it can be no other way. It was my children who had trouble digesting the fact that the computer she worked with took up a whole room – and not a small one!