Kate Monkhouse, Executive Officer for Creators of Peace, joined women at City Gateway Women’s Centre in East London, to share their celebration for International Women’s Day. She shares some of her reflections on what it means for all of us to embrace #IWD2019 theme “balance for better”.
Last week, someone told me that we all as individuals make thousands of decisions every day. I can imagine that for anyone how this might be the case: what time to get up in the morning, what to wear if we have a choice, what to make for breakfast, whether to walk or get the bus to work, when to study, what time to collect the children from school, how to deal with our family conflicts…
As women, we also have valuable decisions to make – not just how we run our households or manage the demands on us each day, but also how we can support ourselves and others to create a better, more peace-filled lives.
For my job, I meet women around the world who are working for peace. The women I work with have often been inspired by extraordinary peacebuilders such as Malala Yousafzai, Rosa Parks and other role models we read about or see in the media. Each of these women have made a decision – sometimes out of choice, sometimes out of circumstances they would not have chosen – to work for better lives for themselves and their communities. They have decided to campaign for peace, to campaign for women’s rights, to speak out against violence, to set up businesses to reduce poverty, to question inequality with men…
I can tell you about some of the women I know whose stories I love to share…
I can tell you about Meena, a colleague from Nepal, who works with teenage girls to help them talk about the challenges they face to stay in education because there are no safe places to go to the toilet at school.
I can tell you about Daphrose, a refugee from Burundi, who has gone back to her country to work with villagers who are living in poverty to work together in the community to set-up projects with goats and mill cassava flour for market.
I can tell you about Iman, a friend of mine from Syria, who works with women who are struggling to face the future after their civil war and helps them find ways to dialogue about the difficult memories they have.
Just like the Malala’s of our world, I think that each of these women are extraordinary, but each one of them would say she is just an ordinary woman doing her best to create a better, more peace-filled life for her community.
And all of them have to make decisions about how to balance their lives…
How to balance their family responsibilities with their commitments outside the home, either caring for children, their husband or their parents.
How to balance paid work with their community leadership roles, either running a business or teaching part-time while volunteering their time to help other women.
How to balance what they share with others with their own education, either running workshops or training others while making time to study themselves.
Do any of these sound familiar?
In my own life, I am still learning…
How to balance an exciting role in my job with being a great auntie to my nephews and godchildren.
How to balance my desire to “change the world” with making time for prayer each day so my activism comes from a place of wisdom.
How to balance the challenging emotional support for others with looking after my own health and exercise so I am strong enough to fulfil my responsibilities.
Can you think of some of the balances that you have learned to make?
Some of the decisions we have to make are not either-or choices. They can be about integrating different aspects of our lives in way that makes us stronger, more confident in who we are and more able to work alongside other women to create better, peace-filled lives for ourselves and our communities.
We can try to balance our difficulties of our past with the possibilities of our future.
We can try to balance the culture we were raised in with the culture we now live in.
We can try to balance our vulnerabilities with our strengths and resilience.
And we can all make a decision to encourage one another as women, to offer practical and emotional support to one another as women and to celebrate our accomplishments. We can share the skills and qualities we have to overcome problems. We can share wisdom and learning across generations to solve challenges.
Take a look around the room at the other women here. We are a group of ordinary women – like any other group of women gathering this week to mark International Women’s Day. We are part of a global community of women who are encouraging each other to flourish in our lives.
You know each other better than I do, but I suspect that each one of in this room is extraordinary in some way – you are beautiful, you have wisdom, you have motivation!
And together, we have wonderful qualities: the ability to offer the kind of welcome and safes pace for women that is needed so much in the world today, the ability to build bridges across different cultures and generations that is needed so much in the world today, the ability to tell positive stories of how we have grown in our lives as women.
I will be travelling again soon, so I wanted to say thank you for helping me create balance in my life: the balance between accompanying women in other countries and women in my neighbourhood. So, let’s make a decision to encourage one another to live better, peace-filled lives and enjoy International Women’s Day together!
Learn more about City Gateway training with women: www.citygateway.org.uk