International Women’s Day— coming once a year to bring our sometimes ignorant and always forgetful society some significant reminders. While it can be all too easy to focus on what inequities do exist, this is a day for females all across the world to come together in solidarity and celebrate diversification, achievements and the continuous road to recognition first initiated by some very brave lasses in the ’60s. With countless female leaders, role models and survivors many look up to today, from visionary workers like Mother Teresa, to noble souls like Princess Diana, political influences like Aung San Suu Kyi and even movie stars like Lupita Nyongo, Colosoul Group Inc. used this opportunity to shed light on every day working women driving change while combatting their own difficulties in our local communities.
The theme for the year was #PressforProgress, which was very well suited for each of the women who shared their story in a panel like setting. The first was a young 20-year old DJ named Maddie. Alone, her occupation was a surprise to many and set the first glimpse of the surprises we’d be hearing as the night went on.
DJ? And girl? It’s not often you hear those two words together. Maddie described how her love for music started from a young age and evolved in her later teens as she started exploring her own avenue by mixing beats to eventually make tunes and steady flows. Maddie made continuous reference to the most constant thing she came across— challenging her confidence yet pushing her persistence and passion in a male-dominated industry. She explained her main focus was reminding herself of who she was not only in her identity but in her place within Perth’s music world. The one thing I took away was the quote she shared stating “you may be hired to fill a quota but you stay because you are the best at what you do.” The reality of this opened up questions for me. Exactly how many people feel as if they’re only doing something because they’re the last resort? And if this is you, why stay there? Why bother feeling under appreciated and second best especially in a setting you’re looking to strive in and potentially leave an impact? Maddie highlighted this can be the common case for women working in industries where traditionally men are in the driver’s seat or automatically receive first priority. In saying so, she reminded us that sometimes silence is the best answer. Instead of taking offence, we should take a strategic defence in using whatever position we are in to draw attention to the issue.
Another story which really stood out to me was Cat’s. Cat, a mum of eight pregnant with her ninth child (ninth!), first made me ponder on just how remarkable the female body is— the fact that she was able to carry eight children in the windows of her womb, theoretically meant she did this almost consecutively over 72 months. Now you tell me how a male’s reproductive system measures up to anything close as this. Cat explained her tough upbringing, being raised in foster care and spending several years on the streets as a troubled teenager. It wasn’t long before she found herself experimenting with drugs and alcohol along with a jail sentence against her name. While many don’t often find their way out, Cat explained how she had undergone a spiritual experience allowing her to use her past as a way of helping young girls going through the same scenarios.
Ayoul’s story was most relatable to me. Ayoul is of Sudanese descent but was born in a Kenyan refugee camp. She now is a model for Chadwicks and works as a social worker, attending seminars and workshops looking to bring awareness to domestic violence amongst women. Ayoul said although she dealt with complexities growing up being a black female, her biggest challenge now is standing up for a cause where many males are generally the gatekeepers. Like Ayoul, my parents were refugees, having to learn a new language, culture and way of living in order of feeling accepted.
Each panellist proved that although their chosen industry or personal circumstances may challenge norms— from a young Indigenous woman saving her language and teaching others to overcome the challenges they may face from prejudice to an Iraqi-born Muslim lawyer hoping to combat the misrepresentation of Muslims in our current political climate— we must continue to strive for change in future generations and see our differences not as weaknesses but as something to celebrate. The collaboration of women from multiple backgrounds, societal classes and situations outlined how the big female movers we’ve seen before us have too started from small beginnings, overcoming challenges that become instrumental in shaping a society that was reluctant to change.