(Women in Nepal, courageously sharing their stories after the earthquake in 2015)
As someone who used to work in International Development, this has been a significant day in my life for quite a number of years, as it was regularly celebrated around the world, even if it's only a new thing in the UK. It was originally International Women's Labour Day - but Labour was dropped (or Labor actually - as the UN is US-centric). A day to recognise and celebrate women's work and labour, and to acknowledge that all too often women are undervalued, unacknowledged, unseen in the work and labour they do. Labour was dropped in order to recognise and celebrate women and how they are often undervalued, unacknolwedged, unseen, unheard, disregarded in a great many arenas of life still, and we have a long way to go for equity and equality.
In this celebration of women's work, women's labour, women's love - I want to honour, acknowledge and respect women around the world who are fighting for their rights, for their dignity, for their families and communities - in a myriad of ways - many of which continue to be unseen, unheard, unnoticed, unacknowledged, by the world at large. But some of the ones we do know.
The many women farmers protesting alongside the men in India, for a repeal of laws which reduce their ability to have a livelihood from the land - despite the fact that the women still can't own the land they work on. The young women civil rights campaigners arrested and assaulted for supporting the farmers in India.
The women in Hong Kong and Myanmar (Burma) protesting and fighting for the civil and human rights - fearing arrests without a day in court, injury, and death. The women making choices about whether to stay or to flee, leaving family, friends and their lives.
The women refugees and internally displaced - millions globally - often without rights, without land or possessions, caring for children, without any sense of certainty or when they might be able to go home, if at all. Syria, Yemen, DRC, Colombia, Ethiopia...
The women held against their will, prisoners in their own homes, in regimes shrouded in secrecy and lack of transparency - such as Nazanin Zahari-Ratcliffe (and many more who's names we've not learnt) in Iran and the Dubai Princesses.
The women educating children during this pandemic whilst also keeping a job down, or making choices about their job; the women losing their jobs, being furloughed or slipping through safety nets because they are insecure, seasonal or temporary workers or self-employed.
The women denied a voice, silenced, ignored, overlooked, disregarded, disrespected because they don't fit the male-model of the workplace. The women who bleed, who birth, who are peri/menopausal who exist in a world which wants to ignore the pain, the blood, the sweat, the tears. Who want it to be hidden away, ignored, and managed through medication (not that medication is inherently bad!), so that we forget who we are, we forget our cycles in our lives, we forget our wisdom because it isn't the logical, straight-line type.
The women creating, bringing into existence things which haven't done so previously, who do so intuitively and against all of society telling them to do so. Who's creations aren't always understood, and are marginalised for it.
The women choosing to love their bodies, and accept them as they are. Choosing to love the cycles and processes in their bodies, and honour them as we age. Choosing to radically accept themselves in a society which only values women for their looks (white, young, fertile, skinny, able-bodied) and disregards, disrespects, ignores, those that don't fit this idealised version.
The black and brown women, who have worse life expectancy and life outcomes than white women; who are 5 times more likely to die in childbirth than a white women. Who endure racism daily, on top of sexism; who work many more times as hard as white men to be far less recognised and who face fear and danger of assult and death simply for being a black or brown woman. And yet, still get up and live, create, love, share regardless.
The transwomen who dare to live their truth and yet are shamed and ridiculed, devalued, sexualised, monetised, trivialised, abused for not conforming to the idealised version of a woman (she doesn't really exist!).
I see you. I hear you. You are loved. You are valued for you, and not your productivity, your looks, or your fertility. You are enough, and you always have been. You are never too much, or not enough. You are here to speak and live your truth. The world needs you and your voice. Your time is now.
To love yourself despite all of this, despite society telling you to hate yourself, is a radical act. It is a feminist act, and it is a self-care act. Take a step towards this today (I know, it's hard, it's a long road, and whatever the men may tell you - it most definitely isn't straight). To live in your body, whatever body that is, and to accept that body, and to really drop into it, really live IN it, not a million miles away from it, despite a million messages a day telling you otherwise; this is enlightenment.
Today at 5.45pm, I am sharing a gorgeous, nourishing, supportive practice combining womb greetings, kundalini yoga and yoga nidra. Come, rest your bones, drop into those gorgeous bodies, and remember your magnificence. Suitable for everyone, with or without wombs. Sign up on the usual Monday class link.