Today, we celebrate women all over the world and their amazing contributions to family, community and society as a whole. But what does it mean to be a woman? We asked our female youth artisans to reflect on their experiences as a woman and were pleased to know that one of our artisans found being a woman to be extremely empowering:
"To be a woman is to be beautiful, to feel beautiful and to be able to spread the beauty. It is also the ability to celebrate all stages of life and living with utmost grace. As a woman, I feel powerful, strong and independent even if there are so many challenges and ups and downs in my life. Since I started living an independent life, I have faced many challenges but these do not stop me from feeling powerful because as an independent woman, I know that I am to do anything that I want to build my future life."
Another youth reflected on the unique strength she found among relationships with other women and the beauty when “women support women”:
"My life hasn't been easy and I was exhausted by the time I reached the age of 20. Even though I am always motivated and optimistic, I noticed that I was utterly drained, but I found the drive I needed through all of the amazing women in my life.
Since then, I have surrounded myself with as many goddesses as I could. From where I live, to my school and work place, I am surrounded by the magical female energy which is not only empowering but is also deeply healing. The women in my life have given me strength when I felt weak, hope when I felt heavy with doubt and unconditional love when I felt alone.
I realized how important it is to have those phenomenal women in my life. To experience the joy women supporting women."
But being a woman also has its challenges, one of the most threatening being the fact that women are more often subjects of violence and abuse. In fact, homeless women face a significantly higher risk of being assaulted on the streets and homeless women are ten times more likely to die early as opposed to their non-homeless counterparts.
"I have, my whole life, felt as though I’ve needed to constantly look over my shoulder when going through daily life, alone in the city. Whether I’m travelling to a destination or enjoying my community, it is second nature for me to look at everyone around me and determine whether or not they could bring me harm. As a woman, I am tired of it. I am exhausted of being perceived as weaker because of my gender."
And while we have made progress towards gender equality, we still have a long way to go:
"I had hoped that being a member of the newer generation, the challenges I face as a woman would be different than the ones my mother faced. Yes, she was told she would never amount to anything and was banished from her family for finding love instead of following the arranged marriage route. I am thankful those expectations and limitations were not placed on me, but I am also angry. I am angry because in the year 2022, woman are still often seen as a second class gender. A woman owned business is classified as such because it’s still a unique thing for a woman to be running a business. There’s still so much more to fight for as women, and until I feel that I no longer have to carry devices to protect myself in my everyday life, I will not stop fighting."
Being a woman is uplifting, empowering and beautiful but it is also fraught with its own set of challenges. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Gender Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” and while the context of it is in relation to climate change and disaster risk reduction, a sustainable tomorrow also starts by ensuring all women have the ability and resources to be effective leaders and change makers. This starts by ensuring the female leaders of tomorrow are taken care of today, that they are given the opportunity to learn, grow and develop so they can bring their invaluable insights to the table.
Just as women bring a different perspective to important issues, so too do women from different backgrounds and unique experiences. And while we are glad to hear that the young women we are privileged to work with feel beautiful, empowered and welcome, it is our hope (and mission) to further our impact by empowering more young women so that the global effort of battling climate change can be exactly that – inclusive and global.