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Celebrating women's power

International Women's day is a timely reminder to all women to work together, learn from one another

Gulf News

Tomorrow is International Women's Day, and in looking at their website, it is interesting to see so many international events taking place, ranging from large, national conferences to small informal ‘get-togethers'.

However, the message is the same which in the words of Jude Kelly, artistic director is: "To celebrate the formidable power of women to make change happen, to remind us of our history, to draw attention to injustice and to enjoy each other's company as we set out to achieve a fairer world".

Tales from South Africa

This made me think about all the special women that I have met over the past year. I visit South Africa at least once a year and there I work with women who are budding entrepreneurs.

These are women who have not usually received a formal education, but still want to create and grow their own businesses so that they can send their children to school, so that they can be independent and not have to sit on street corners, begging for money. I have met women who are so completely focused in their endeavours that it puts many of us to shame.

They have a strength and determination of which many of us can only dream. They have no cars or large houses but their township homes in which I stay are spotlessly clean and tidy and I can only stand back in amazement at their resilience and fortitude. Many of these women are single and don't have the support of a man in the home and yet they survive in bringing up their children.

However, what they do lack are the marketing skills to promote their small businesses and this is what I offer to them through my 1:1 coaching programmes. Some of the skills are specific such as helping them to write their own business cards and business plans, but other skills are those that come from encouragement and motivation.

While in South Africa, in December, I read a book entitled Street Kid by British born, Judy Westwater, and was so captivated by the author's autobiographical account of abuse, cruelty and living on the streets of South Africa and her amazing story of how she survived, that I telephoned her when I returned to the UK, where she now lives.

Judy is now 67 years old and she is busy running many community projects in Cape Town and Johannesburg, using drama therapy to help local street children come to terms with their often traumatic experiences and to find greater self-worth and purpose. What an amazing role model she is for so many of us and I strongly recommend her book.

Tales from the Mideast

And then there are all those women I have met in the Middle East, who want to break through the ‘glass ceiling' that prevents their upward career progression and to make a difference for all of those who work alongside them.

These are ladies who have a commitment to raise the profile of all women in business and the professions, the world over. They often work long hours, have to balance their home and work lives and sometimes feel guilty that they have insufficient time to give their children. Nevertheless, it is their choice and they still have to deal with the challenges that go with their lives.

They may look serene dressed in their abayas but they still have the same challenges as everybody else. They are to be admired for their tenacity in maintaining their often demanding role as both mothers and professional/business-women.

International Women's day has always had a special meaning for me. To read of the stories of community, empowerment and leadership is such a motivation and encouragement for all women, whether at home or in the workplace.

It is a timely reminder to all women to work together, learn from one another and to build strong communities around the world. The celebration of womanhood and female achievement is uplifting to read about and in which to fully participate. I look forward to hearing of other stories from my (women) readers of Gulf News.

The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London

 

Key points

  • Women can, and do, make things happen
  • International Women's day focuses attention on women around the world
  • Under every abaya is a woman who can achieve
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