Celebrating #IWD2021

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.

IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.. We wanted to celebrate IWD 2021 by celebrating the amazing women involved in our work, in the hope that they will inspire you as much as they inspire us on a daily basis.

Elizabeth Chatalas Benoit 

Prospero World

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Where did you grow up?

In a teeny tiny town on the north coast of Oregon, with the beach as my playground.

 

Who was your heroine when you were growing up and why?

Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore…funny, sassy and smart, with moxie – a diet of TV in the 70s will have that influence.

 

What did you want to do when you were little?

Originally, I wanted to be a racing jockey after spending early mornings on the backstretch with my dad, but then I kept growing, and growing. I changed tack, wanting to become a veterinarian but then refined that idea to having a menagerie of animals and living on a ranch by the sea. It’s still the dream.

 

What is the strangest job you have ever had?

Well, I still am baffled that at 11 years old, people would actually pay me to babysit their children.

 

[Growing up in a seaside town meant lots of retail and waitressing jobs (which everyone should do, if you want to learn true multitasking and diplomatic skills). One retail job was at an artisanal craft store that sold handmade quilts and macrame items – it was called Knotty but Nice. We had to field numerous odd phone inquiries.]

 

What would you like to be doing when you are 80?

Horse trekking across the Mongolian steppes with Sita!

 

How do you motivate yourself when things are not going as well as they might?

Stepping onto the yoga mat never fails to recalibrate my mood, help me remember who I am, and put things into perspective.

 

What advice would you give to your 16-year old self if you could talk to her now?

I still heed my mom’s advice to my 16 year old self – “Trust your gut.”

 

(She also would say, “Buy it when you see it, and use it when you can.” (Pertaining to toilets when you are out and about.)

 

If you had the power to change one thing in the world today, what would that be?

I am still haunted after having watched The Social Dilemma documentary. I would magically make everyone digitally literate – thoughtful consumers and producers of content who are intentional and acutely aware of where they are allocating their attention.

Can we shift our attention economy to a kindness economy?

Sheila Funnell

Programme Director Grevy's Zebra Trust

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Where did you grow up? Nairobi, Kenya

Who was your heroine when you were growing up and why?

I loved dinosaurs growing up and was fascinated by the life of Mary Anning and everything she achieved.

What did you want to do when you were little?

Be a fashion designer. By 12, I knew I wanted to work with wildlife and in conservation.

What is the strangest job you have ever had?

As part of my work with an NGO in Madagascar, we built eco-friendly stoves that reduced the amount of smoke released, and minimised the amount of charcoal or wood used, during cooking. One of the key ingredients for the stove was cow manure. Because of fady ‘s (or taboos) about entering cow sheds with shoes, I had to collect heaps of cow poo bare foot to make the stoves.

 

What would you like to be doing when you are 80?

Drinking clean water straight from a river whilst cooking freshly caught fish from plentiful stocks.

How do you motivate yourself when things are not going as well as they might?

I remind myself that it will pass (there have been so many occasions when things have not gone as planned, and they always did pass).

 

What advice would you give to your 16-year old self if you could talk to her now?

To let go of past experiences and appreciate them for the growth they give, rather than holding on to the negative experiences.

 

If you had the power to change one thing in the world today, what would that be?

The unsustainable use of finite resources

Elisabeth Kendall,

Chairman Mahra Youth Unity Association

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Where did you grow up?

A small town called Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. The only famous thing about it is its model village which is like a giant train-set.

 

Who was your heroine when you were growing up and why?

Boudica, a Celtic queen who led a tribal uprising against the expanding Roman Empire in the first century. She didn’t just sit around moaning about the Romans, but got up and did something. Actually, she failed but that’s not the point.

 

What did you want to do when you were little?

An archaeologist (until I went on a dig and had to spend a week scraping mud off bits of stone whilst being pelted by rain at Hadrian’s Wall - that killed the dream)

 

What is the strangest job you have ever had?

Judging the grand final of a cocktail-making competition for a major drinks company in Istanbul. I had to sip cocktails for 5 hours.

What would you like to be doing when you are 80?

Same as now, only faster.

How do you motivate yourself when things are not going as well as they might?

I focus on two thoughts: (1) In a week’s time, things are bound to look better (2) Thank goodness this is happening to me and not to someone I love

 

What advice would you give to your 16  year old self if you could talk to her now?

Worry less about what other people think. Follow your dreams, but take the time to think about where they might lead. Make lists.

 

If you had the power to change one thing in the world today, what would that be?

Inequality of opportunity

Janina Joyce Palanas

YAPAK

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Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Mandaluyong and San Juan City, in the Philippines.

 

Who was your heroine when you were growing up and why?

Growing up, I consider my mother as my heroine. My father has been working overseas since I was 6 years old so I seldom interact with him. It was my mother who has been there for me, taking care of my needs and inspiring me to be a beautiful person. She became an orphan at an early age of 3 hence she has very little memory of her mother. She had to live with different relatives and work at a young age to sustain her needs while studying. Though she grew up without parents, I can say that she has shown me how it is to be a genuine person with a big heart.

 

I would never forget all the lessons she instilled in me, “be kind, do good, and always put a smile on your face”. Simple as it is, yet this has brought me a long way in my life.

 

What did you want to do when you were little? 

Our family reunion usually takes place in a convent. Whenever I see nuns I would admire them and wish that I can be one someday.

 

What is the strangest job you have ever had? 

When I was in high school, I used to sell different merchandise – from paper, to frogs that we used in our Biology class, to packed lunch foods. As a kid I have developed a habit to save my own money (through selling) so I can use it when the need arises.

 

What would you like to be doing when you are 80? 

I would like to spend time with my grandkids by the beach or up the hills and tell them inspiring stories to guide them in their own journey.

 

How do you motivate yourself when things are not going as well as they might?

Through positive self-talk, prayer, and meditation. I also listen to podcasts that are inspiring. I would also go for a walk or a run and to have a better connection with my inner self.

 

What advice would you give to your 16  year old self if you could talk to her now?

Choose who you spend your time with wisely. Quality is always better than quantity. Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t.

 

If you had the power to change one thing in the world today, what would that be?

I would want to change social media contents and make them more meaningful, inspiring, and full of positivity. The number of social media influencers continues to rise. However, sadly not all their content may appear as sensible and some may even result to people (especially the younger generation) to develop self destruction tendencies in the long run. With all that is happening globally, now is the perfect time to spread more good vibes that will hopefully result to a more kind and fair world.

Anna-Louisa Psarras

Prospero World

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Where did you grow up?

I grew up in beautiful Corfu Town (my father was Corfiot). When I was 7, my father died so we moved to magical Gloucestershire so that we could be near my mother's family (she is Welsh).

 

Who was your heroine when you were growing up and why?

Bouboulina Laskarina, a Greek naval commander, heroine of the Greek War of Independence and the first female admiral of the Imperial Russian navy. She was feisty, brave and unstoppable. Thinking of her still send chills up my spine. Unfortunately, having survived the War of Independence, she was shot following a family feud. 

And also Mrs Annis, who was the Headmistress of my Primary School. She was amazing. She had beautiful white hair that she wore in a bun, and not only did she and her team teach me how to read and write English in a term, but she also taught me how to write cheques (though that later got me into trouble at university!)

 

What did you want to do when you were little?

I wanted to be an Astronaut. Unfortunately my aptitude for Physics, or lack thereof, meant i needed to content myself with exploring our amazing planet, rather than a galaxy far far away. But it didnt stop me sitting in cardboard boxes and pretending it was a space ship, or plastering tin foil all over my bedroom walls. I still have a fascination with the stars.

 

What is the strangest job you have ever had?

There have been many! From packing dandellion coffee in a factory, to being a historic room guide from the age of 14, to working in a hospital kitchen, being a make up girl, throwing divining bones with a Zimbabwean Shaman, to doing UV facepaints at trance parties. I don't think any of them were strange so to speak, but they all gave me a different perspective.

 

What would you like to be doing when you are 80?

Spending time in my homemade observatory, watching the stars through a telescope and enjoying cocktails. And hopefully adventurous grandchildren (maybe one of them will be an astronaut!)

 

How do you motivate yourself when things are not going as well as they might?

I try to remember that every challenge is an opportunity to learn, and an opportunity to choose who i want to be, and how i want to respond to any given situation.  Some of my most important lessons have been learned from the most challenging situations.

 

What advice would you give to your 16-year old self if you could talk to her now?

Follow your instinct. Always. Trust in yourself. Be loyal. Behave with integrity in all things. Don't worry about "following the crowd" (often they are sheep and you are not).

 

If you had the power to change one thing in the world today, what would that be?

I wish i could sprinkle magic empathy dust. I think no matter what the challenge is-war, hunger, conservation-if people have the ability to empathise, they would be more capable of showing kindness to others and the world would be a better place for it. 

Sita Schutt

Prospero World

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Where did you grow up?

In a little French village on the border of Switzerland with a view of the Alps and the Jura mountains. 

 

Who was your heroine when you were growing up and why?

I loved Astrid Lingren’s ‘Pippi Longstocking’. I wanted to be as strong as her, live in a house with a horse and a monkey. I admired her extraordinary clothes, her hair, her free spirit and her courage.


What did you want to do when you were little?

I wanted to be a writer. My first novella was called 'Madeira the Gypsy Girl' (written when I was 10) in a blue exercise book. Mostly involved sleeping in olive trees and eating lunch.

 

What is the strangest job you have ever had?

Being a model for a discount clothes racket, involved two dodgy men who ran it from a van. I had to model in community halls in the farthest reaches of South East  London and then on the way home would listen to gangster stories told by the ‘men’ who ran it. I took notes. 

 

What would you like to be doing when you are 80?

Definitely dancing. If my mother is anything to go by, I would also like to be playing killer tennis, like she does. I still have some time to improve. 

 

How do you motivate yourself when things are not going as well as they might?

I create a rigorous and unforgiving schedule of things to do as I believe that it is in the doing that you can move yourself through the slough of despond. In the words of the song: ‘Pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.’

 

What advice would you give to your 16 year old self if you could talk to her now?

Stand up for yourself, work hard and don’t take No for an answer. 
 

If you had the power to change one thing in the world today, what would that be?

Devise a magical formula that would be able to reverse all chemically/man- made things so they could biodegrade  - over time, obviously  - don’t want buildings to disintegrate while we are still living in them. 

Agata Sivokhin

Prospero World

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Where did you grow up?
My family travelled a lot when I was little. I was randomly born in Uzbekistan then spent early years in Hungary and then moved to Belarus. 
 

Who was your heroine when you were growing up and why?

As a teen I was so much into ballroom dancing that I only remember wanting to be a dance champion. I also was quite narcissistic and did not want to look like or be like anyone else but a better version of myself. I'd like to believe that years and continuous hard work have changed my understanding of  what it really means to be a better version of myself. 

 

What did you want to do when you were little?
Dance and win dance championships. 

What is the strangest job you have ever had?
As a wedding dance choreographer I was working with a groom who asked me to pretend I was the bride and we had the whole course of lessons and learned their First dance. The bride never showed up and I have no idea how he was dancing the routine with her without her knowing the part. 
 

What would you like to be doing when you are 80?
I think I would like to slow down and take time to really savor a moment. Know the names of many types of flowers and enjoy a daily 5pm cocktail and a small talk with a neighbour. 

How do you motivate yourself when things are not going as well as they might?
I focus on my breath, reminding myself that this too will pass. I also focus on finding the solutions and research the problem which puts my mind at rest. 
 

What advice would you give to your 16 year old self if you could talk to her now? 
Invest time and resources in your life experiences, don't watch a day go buy without new learning or adventure.

If you had the power to change one thing in the world today, what would that be?
Inefficiency in distribution of resources and opportunities. I envision a much more transparent information flow where those in demand see/find the supply of opportunities, which leads to less waste and more satisfied needs. For this to happen the world would need to become much more transparent as opposed to privacy driven. 

Little Yogeswari
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Where did you grow up?

Switzerland & Traveling

 

Who was your heroine when you were growing up and why?

Dr. Angela Yvonne Davis; a woman dedicated to racial and gender equality

 

What did you want to do when you were little?

Pilot, Actor, Painter

 

What is the strangest job you have ever had?

Proofreading/translation of car manuals and marriage licences
 

What would you like to be doing when you are 80?

Living in a peace village, meditating a lot

 

How do you motivate yourself when things are not going as well as they might?

Yoga & Meditation Practice

 

What advice would you give to your 16  year old self if you could talk to her now?

Follow your heart

 

If you had the power to change one thing in the world today, what would that be?

Stop all forms violence & prohibit arms sales