Happy International Women’s Day 2017! It has become a tradition for me to celebrate, thank and revere the women who inspire me, teach me and support me; and so I will start by doing that: YOU ARE ALL AWESOME!
But being the inspiring, amazing women that they are, I’m sure they won’t mind me breaking with tradition this year and instead, giving a bit of hope and practical solution to women who maybe are not feeling so empowered. It’s a tough world for women at the moment, with certain countries determined to roll back women’s rights, and others stubbornly preventing them from going forward; hate crimes on the rise and confusion about what to truth to believe and what not; any women would be forgiven for feeling disempowered right now.
So for International Women’s Day, here are ten things you can do to feel and become more empowered this year; and how you can help empower other women* in your life.
*When referring to women, unless specified, I include all people on the gender spectrum who identify as women, female or feminine.
Get Clued Up
If you are in a part of the world where laws and rights are under threat, or you are a woman in a marginalised group because of your sexuality, gender identity, race, religion or because of a disability, get clued up on what your rights are and how to get them implemented. There are websites such as Rights of Women, The Citizen’s Advice Bureaux and the LGBT switchboard (and many more) where you can get advice. If you need help with this there are charities that offer advocates. It’s worth taking time to find out what is available in your area, either for yourself or for women you know who might need them.
Find your tribe
We live in a world that adores pitting women against one another; after all, divide and conquer is a tactic that has been used for centuries. There is nothing more nourishing and supporting than a group of women to talk to and spend time with. You might be lucky and already have a girl gang but if you haven’t, maybe it’s because you haven’t found your ‘tribe’ yet. Look for groups that share your interests with; such as the women’s branches of political parties, faith groups, yoga, crafts, women’s circles, walking groups, Mummy groups, retired women groups – or if you are not a sociable bunny, online communities. I found some kindred spirit women through yoga in the last year and they really have changed my life for the better. It’s never too late to find your tribe!
Be loud and proud
Are you angry? Passionate? Are you raging about some of the things happening to women around the world, to you? Then don’t be afraid to do something! Channelling that energy into something positive, such as political or feminist groups, going on marches; or writing letters to your MP can be very cathartic and make you feel more like you are doing something. I wrote about this in a previous blog, how to grab back some control when you feel like you have lost it all.
Not everyone wants to be so direct in their activism but if you look back through history, at times of trouble and stress it is the artists, the musicians, the writers and the poets that are also remembered. If you have a creative talent, then please use it! Art and performance are a great way of engaging others and to truly embrace an artistic talent – which many women are afraid to do – can be one of the most empowering things you can do. If you’ve always wanted to, then there is no better time to start.
A wise drag queen once said: ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love anyone else?’. Thanks Ru Paul, she’s really up there with Maya Angelou for inspiring quotes. I digress. Again, the world does not encourage you to love yourself. If you loved yourself unconditionally, you wouldn’t need to spend money on things you don’t really need. Subsequently there are whole industries that survive entirely on your self-loathing about yourself. What a cheery thought. Learning to love yourself is tricky, but it is one of the most radical, empowering things you can do. If you have a real problem with self-love then book to see a therapist or coach to help you, or if that isn’t available to you start with the smallest bit of you that you, pour praise on that and work out from there. You deserve love, especially from yourself.
I wax lyrical about self-care in a lot of my blog posts, and for a reason. It’s blooming hard to be a woman! Whether you’re a mum juggling offspring, or work hard at a job, you’re at uni, or a combination of the above, Wonder Woman has nothing on you (except a cape, and let’s be honest, what good is a cape to anyone?). You cannot pour from an empty cup, you need to look after yourself. You need to learn how put yourself first so that you are adequately resourced for all the awesome things you do. It’s also worth mentioning that social media and the news can really overwhelm us, especially when there is so much doom and gloom, trolls and bullies out there. Do not forget to have breaks from the screen and find your centre of peace and quiet once in a while. Yoga, meditation, massage… all excellent, but even if you can sit down for a cuppa and a deep breath once in a while it’s a start!
It has been shown many times that kindness and helping others has a tremendously positive effect on our well-being and mental health. Volunteering or doing a charity event such as a run or coffee morning can make you feel involved, social and raise your self-esteem; by helping others you are empowering yourself and perhaps empowering others, especially if you are helping other women and girls. Find a cause that you care about and get involved! For more about how volunteering can help your well-being then see this post.
Learn your Herstory
I am a history geek it’s true, but there really is something incredibly inspiring about learning all about the women who came before us. We really are standing on the shoulders of giants. Whether it’s learning about women in STEM, the Suffragettes, black or LGBT history, learning about how we overcame struggles in the past can be the boost we need (and a great chance to learn intersectionality). Knowledge is power. As these areas of history can often be skimmed over in schools, this is also a nice way of empowering the young women and girls in your life.
Get in touch with your rhythms
If you are a cis-gendered women (or other gender identity that has a menstrual cycle) then the likelihood is that you will have had some relationship with your cycle that has left you feeling disempowered. Whether it’s pain, PMT, worries about contraception or fertility, regularity or menopause, it’s easy to become a slave to your cycle; and that is without touching on the social taboos. This is a topic I will go into in greater depth in the future, but I have personally found one of the most empowering things I have done in recent years is to ‘make friends’ with my menstrual cycle. There are apps where you can track your period, websites such as The Rent Tent and activities you can do, such as womb yoga and women’s circles to help you get more in tune with your body. There is also an excellent book I can recommend, called Moon Time, which helps you understand your menstrual cycle better.
Ask for help
No man is an island and neither is a woman. It’s easy to feel alone, frightened and isolated when the world feels upside-down. You are not alone. Perhaps 2017 is the year that you decide to see a therapist, hypnotherapist, coach or counsellor to work through anything you need help with. There is no shame in it, in fact a period of self-enquiry though therapy, retreats, travel or a supportive therapeutic environment can be hugely empowering. Sometimes it’s about letting go of the past, sometimes it’s about embracing the future, or just making the present the best it can be.
Whatever you choose to do in 2017 to feel more empowered, enjoy it and have a marvellous year, sisters!