It’s International Women’s Day today – this year’s theme is ‘inspiring change’. I’ve got many women in my life who I look up to – they are inspiring change – my mother, my many female managers over my career in my day job, my blogging colleagues, my mentors (thank you so much to Debra Cerasa and Layne Beachley for their recent words of encouragement) and my friends. The women in my life are pretty remarkable.
I’ve been sharing stories about women who inspire me on my Facebook page today. I wanted to share them here too. These women are women who are definitely inspiring change.
Katie Love Smith
Katie, my friend who I met in the Ichthyosis community, is going to intern as a student nurse at a Tanzanian hospital in the middle of the year. She writes:
“Working on improving access to healthcare for women and children in the developing world is what I want to spend my life doing so this is truly a dream.”
However, she needs a bit of help getting there and she’s calling for the generosity of strangers.
You can watch her video about her dream:
And consider making a donation to her cause. Thank you!
Lupita Nyong’o is inspiring change. Lupita is the American based Kenyan actor who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in in 12 Years a Slave. Lupita is champion of appearance diversity – highlighting the issue of racism in beauty.
She gave an incredible speech as she accepted her award for Best Breakthrough Performance at the annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon:
“I too remember a time when I would turn on the TV and only see pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter skinned.
“The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself before I was in front of a mirror, because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced just the same disappointment at being just as dark as I had been the day before.
“I tried to negotiate with God. I told him I would stop steeling sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted. I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But, I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because I never woke up lighter.
“And then Alek Wek came on the scene. A celebrated model, she was dark as night. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman that looked so much like me as beautiful. Now I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far-away gatekeepers of beauty.”
“My mother used to say to me, ‘You can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you.’ And these words played and bothered me, I didn’t really understand them until finally I realised that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume. It was something that I just had to be. And what my mother meant by saying that you can’t eat beauty is that you can’t rely on beauty to sustain you.
“What actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master. But it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even though the beauty of her body has faded away.
“And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation for your beauty, but also get to the deeper business of feeling beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”
Watch her speech:
Like her Facebook page
Follow her Instagram.
Jessie Taylor is inspiring change this International Women’s Day.
Jessie Taylor and I met at a human rights event we both spoke at last year. She’s a barrister (not a barista), a human rights activist, a refugee advocate, a foster mum to a young refugee from Afghanistan and a film maker. Can you believe she’s only in her early 30s?! The activism she does on social media is incredible – educating so many people about the plight of asylum seekers.
When Jessie spoke at the AYAD Forum last year, she said how important it is to inform people of the facts, especially around human rights issues that are feared, to help remove their prejudice. She ended her speech saying “Don’t ever let anyone put fear into you. If you want to create change, do it and do it now.”
Read about her remarkable accomplishments.
Watch her speak at the AYAD Forum.
Read about her fostering Jaffar.
Find out about her film The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.
Read the transcript of her Australian Story feature.
Listen to her conversation with Richard Fidler on ABC Radio.
Follow Jessie on Twitter.
My friend Gloria Malone is inspiring change this International Women’s Day by being an advocate for young mothers. She runs a website called Teen Mom NYC and has written about her experience as a teenage mother for many publications including the New York Times, as well as spoken on NPR and The Huffington Post.
Gloria fell pregnant age 15 and gave birth to a gorgeous daughter Leilani. When Gloria was pregnant and at high school, her guidance counsellor and many others around her didn’t expect her to graduate. However, she graduated high school with honours. Leilani is now seven and Gloria in her 20s. Gloria is raising her daughter while studying at university.
Gloria wrote for the New York Times:
“At 15, I was a good student and determined to apply to college. But after I had my daughter, my high school guidance counselor refused to see me and help me with my applications. She never expected me to graduate. Most people, even within my family, assumed I wouldn’t amount to anything and would be dependent on government assistance for the rest of my life.
But I wanted to be someone my daughter could be proud of. So every day, I woke up before the sun, drove my daughter’s father to work, my daughter to day care, and still managed to be in class at 7:50 a.m. before the bell rang. I also worked 35 hours a week at a cellphone store. I would leave school early through a co-op program that allowed graduating seniors to work and go to school at the same time. After getting out of work I would pick my daughter up from day care and go home. I was always tired, but more than anything I was determined.
I also had a few people who encouraged me not to listen to the stereotypes. People like my chorus teacher, who allowed me to show up a few minutes late to class, so I could pump breast milk first; my economics teacher, who congratulated me on having a healthy child and reminded me that he was proud of me for not giving up; and the nurse at my daughter’s doctor’s office, who told me I was doing a great job and to keep it up.”
She’s such a great role model for her daughter and for young parents around the world. I’m proud to know her.
Read more about Gloria’s Teen Mom NYC project.
Follow her on Twitter.
Connie Johnson, founder of Love Your Sister and sister of actor and unicyclist extraordinaire Samuel Johnson is a woman inspiring change.
She is a wife, a mum to two young boys and has terminal cancer. She doesn’t know how much time she has on this earth, and she wants her legacy to be that all young women are breast aware.
She and Samuel created Love Your Sister – a charity raising money for breast cancer research. Samuel recently unicycled around Australia spreading the message “don’t fall into the booby trap – be breast aware” – this trip covered 15,000 km and raised more than $1.5 Million for the Garvan Institute.
Connie’s a fighter – fighting for herself and other women.
Donate to Love Your Sister.
Visit Love Your Sister on Facebook.
Watch Connie on SBS Insight.
A Mighty Girl
I have been following A Mighty Girl on Facebook – I highly recommend the Facebook page and website for parents and teachers of girls. A Mighty Girl shares the most inspiring quotes, stories and resources for and about girls and women.
From the website:
“Girls do not have to be relegated to the role of sidekick or damsel in distress; they can be the leaders, the heroes, the champions that save the day, find the cure, and go on the adventure. It is our hope that these high-quality children’s products will help a new generation of girls to grow and pursue whatever dreams they choose — to truly be Mighty Girls.”
Happy International Women’s Day! Who are the women that inspire you? Tell me how they’re inspiring change.