International Women's Day 2016

GAH - I just love International Women's Day. I love that we get to mark a day in the calendar to reflect on where we have been as women, look at what is still necessary for all women in the world to flourish and resolve to do more, be more, expect more in the years to come.

My workplace celebrated 10 years of marking IWD this year - a tradition started by my beautiful colleagues who run the Women's World Programme when the charity was just in it's infancy.  Even though I'm already on maternity leave, I wouldn't have missed it so I waddled down to spend the morning with over 100 women from dozens of nationalities who have somehow made their home here in our area.

International Women's Day 2016That's me in the middle, caught in the act of gabbing away to my midwife friend about birth preferences and refusing unnecessary vaginal examinations...as you do.

But these women I spent the morning with.  These women are fierce.  They work, they contribute, they volunteer, they nurture, they resolve to thrive amidst the obvious and the silent challenges that living as an 'outsider' in an already polarised community brings.  Diversity is still a dirty word here.  We ate, we laughed, and we wept as we heard stories of these incredible women in our community who have overcome the most difficult things this year:  cancer, isolation, depression.  A grandmother now the primary care provider for her 3 grandchildren left behind after her daughter died tragically.  A mother who, only a couple of weeks after moving to Northern Ireland was attending English lessons when her two year old accidentally got caught in a blind cord at home and later passed away.

These women and their families have been extended the hand of welcome and friendship; of opportunity to painfully overcome with the support of our dedicated and compassionate teams at work, of generous local churches and of the kindness of individuals.  Such bravery.  It was a privilege to be there to honour them.

These WOMEN.  Their STORIES.  What COURAGE.

My friend Sharon reminds me that the small things are often the big things.

This years IWD theme is on 'pledging parity' - helping to move more quickly the divides and divisions that see and treat women as less than equal to men in so many facets of society.  When I see the audacity, tenderness and bravery of the women I have just mentioned, I am stirred up by the potential for women to continue to change the world because they already are.  They are standing in the gap, they are showing up and they are making things happen.  Their bravery, the sharing and acknowledgement of their stories is part of that pledge, it is bridging that divide.

For me, this pledge starts at home - in conversations with my four year old boy, as we model and discuss the value and abilities of women and girls. Through toys and stories and colours and conversations we are gently showing him - both Dave and I.

It continues in our marriage - in working things out together, being a team, having equal say in all decisions, modelling that there is no boss in our family but that we all mutually try to put each other first, championing each other's successes and dreams - dancing the dance of making sure everyones needs are met (this, the very heart of #motherhoodalive).

It then bleeds out into work, hobbies, friendships, how the communities around me are being built: everything to make sure that the voices, the stories, the plights and the successes of women are seen and heard in our homes, our communities and around the world.

So tell me, how can you pledge for parity in your family?  What ways are you seeing women championed that stirs you up?  What would you love to see changed for women in your own community and how can we do it together?  I'd love to hear from you!  I'm also linking up with Lulastic's IWD Blog Link Up, so if you want to read more from some awesome kick-ass women writers, do make sure to head over there for a good round up!

Mel