I always wondered why we celebrated women’s day. So, as usual, I did a little digging and some reading. In 1909 the day was set apart to celebrate women as a strategy to promote equal rights including a woman’s right to vote. Then Clara Zetkin (a German Marxist theorist, activist, and advocate for women’s rights) proposed that the 8th of March be designated a day of honour in memory of all working women, at the socialist women’s conference of 1910. In 1917, women working in textile factories in the Russian capital carried out a city-wide demonstration which is known as the ‘February revolution’ and is part of the Russian Revolution. In the meantime, women in St. Petersburg Russia, went on strike demanding an end to WWI, an end to the Russian food shortage and an end to czarism. Leon Trotzy, a revolutionary leader wrote
8th March was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in the morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to a mass strike… all went out into the streets.” Seven days later, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
In 1967, the March 8th celebration was adopted by the feminist movement and in 1975 the United Nations began celebrating the day in honour of women internationally. Today, in the 21st century, International Women’s Day is celebrated in some countries, marked as a holiday in a few and entirely ignored in others.
In celebration of International Women’s Day this year, I thought it would be nice to talk about some of the amazing women I have met over the past few months writing for Well Worn Hush Pupps.
Palmy Bunting Ladies
The ‘Palmy Bunting Ladies’ is a group of women from refugee backgrounds, who have come to New Zealand to start a new life. The sewing group is their safe haven, their place to create, communicate and feel accepted and safe. These women possess amazing resilience. The ability to pick up the pieces and start sewing their life back together. Every day must be a battle for them; living in a new country, with a foreign culture, having to learn to speak in a new language. But they are so happy to be here, so happy to have a chance at a normal life; a free life. Kudos to them. Read more here.
Neleisha is a highly educated lady, who held several positions of responsibility in companies before she decided that she was going to put all her energy into pursuing her dream. She’s an artist and was dabbling in creativity since her school days, it was and is her passion. So she took the plunge and went all in to make her artist dream a reality, fully supported by her husband and family. She is also a busy mom with a one-year-old and a loving wife too. Neleisha says it’s not easy to make a name for herself as an artist in her home town, Colombo, Sri Lanka. But she is standing her ground and slowly but surely making her way through the maze. Neleisha is a woman with a will of steel, a never say die attitude and a creative spirit. Read more here.
Jane is a busy wife and mum, who works part-time at a school and an entrepreneur and owner of a home-based business – Love Lemon. She says she loves lemons and has always made jams, chutneys, and sauces for home use, which naturally became a business when she bought a property that came with two large fruit baring lemon trees. Starting the business was a steep learning curve, but she was determined. She also had the incredible support of her family behind her. You can read more about her story here. Jane has big dreams and plans for her business and the family has started growing more fruit trees, which they hope will produce most of the fruit and herbs they need for their products. Read more here.
Writer/author/blogger, musician, financier, and busy mom and wife. Jenny has always loved books and was always found with her nose in a book in her younger days; which naturally lead her to write herself. She says she ‘discovered’ her ability to write when she won a school competition for creative writing and then a district-wide competition fo the same. She is a contributing writer to business magazines on financial matters, she writes on a wide variety of subjects for her blog and has recently published a tourism food guide on Colombo, Sri Lanka. Jenny is a mixture of both practicality and creativity. She is determined to make her creative dreams a reality and with the support of her family is able to carve out time for her creative pursuits in her busy day. Read more here.
Akhida Saleem Jayamanne
Here’s a self-professed, “want to everything kinda [lady]”. Akhida is a writer, sustainability enthusiast, globetrotter, a student physiotherapist, and business owner. She owns a thriving book subscription business in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Akhida’s dream is to see more people getting back into reading and becoming book lovers – like her self. This lady’s love for books and reading started when she was younger, she says she found comfort and solace in the local library lost among the pages of a book. Her reading habit was encouraged by her parents who bought her a new book every month, thus enabling her to build her own personal library extensively. Now, she is passionate about encouraging other young people to also pick up a book and put down their devices; to step out of the digital world and into the world of imagination and unbelievable possibilities found in a book. Read more here.
Helen Griffin – President Days for Girls New Zealand
Days for Girls is an international organization with a meritorious mission – to provide access to good quality, sustainable feminine hygiene products to women and girls in places where there is very little access to these products. Helen Griffin is the lovely lady who has started the New Zealand chapter of this esteemed organization, she is also the president of the NZ chapter. Helen together with the sewing teams of other amazing women all over NZ sew kits that go to the Pacific Islands; some go to Africa and a few to Cambodia. There are women and girls around the world who miss out on days of school or work and providing for their families every month, simply because they don’t have any access to sanitary products. This is the need that Days for Girls International is trying to meet. “Turning periods into pathways” is the tagline the organization uses. The ethos of their work is that giving women and girls their days back means their communities and our world grow stronger. Read more here.
Maria Rivera has been a science and Spanish teacher, social worker and now natural cosmetic chemist. She holds a Science degree in chemistry, a master’s in social work and also has a diploma in herbal studies. It’s safe to say that Maria does not do things halfway. She formally studies the subject area she is interested in venturing into and then goes full steam ahead. Maria tells me that when she first moved to New Zealand she taught Spanish at a high school, however after the arrival of her babies she found herself getting more involved in the community. As her family matured Maria qualified as a social worker and worked in the social work field for twenty years until she retired. Maria always dreamed of growing her own herbs and plants and creating a range of natural skincare products out of them. In 2006 this dream finally became a reality, and La Finca Herbs was born. Read more here.
So there you have it – a summary of the real-life women I’ve met just in the past few months, and who have inspired me. While there are so many amazing women out there to write about, I think I better stop here, lest I lose you, dear reader. The purpose of this piece was to draw attention to how ordinary women are doing extraordinary things, creating and achieving their dreams and celebrating all that we are able to do today; thanks to the women who stood up for themselves and us all those years ago. Yet, the fight goes on, as it should, as there is still a lot more to do.
It must be specially mentioned here that most of the women I have written about in this article have been immensely supported by the equally amazing men in their lives – fathers, husbands, and sons. So happy International Women’s Day to all the wonderful women and men out there – because change is only possible when we stand together.