Updated: Dec 12, 2022
Another International Women’s Day (IWD) has come and gone. IWDs have always felt bitter-sweet to me. It’s nice that we carve out one day out of 365 to call out and recognise women in all our glory. But part of me wants to live in a world where this sort of ‘campaign’ was not needed — certainly not for a group that makes up 50% of the world’s population...
There is no doubt that we have come a long way but it’s 2021. In this day and age why is it that women continue to lag behind in so many metrics that measures equality and wellbeing e.g. women in senior leadership roles, women on boards, women in business, venture funding raised by women, women’s financial wellbeing, sexual and physical violence against women … and the list goes on. I have reflected long and hard on this question and the thing that kept coming up was narratives - the stories that we as young girls and women grow up with. The narratives I am talking about focus and amplify women's:
vulnerabilities (Disney and their collection of princesses that needed to be rescued)
appearances (Barbie and the cheerleader types)
negative traits (wicked witches, evil stepmothers and bossy women)
stereotypes (love of shoes and shopping, bad with numbers/math, obsession in finding a boyfriend/husband)
violence (crime books and movies centered around rape and murder of women)
These sort of narratives are everywhere; perpetuated by the society, by advertisers, by our employers, by our communities, by our teachers, by our families and at times by our mothers. They not only negatively condition us but also shape the societies perception of women and girls more broadly.
If it was not for my Eastern heritage with its formidable lineup of female goddesses, I would have grown up without having heard too many stories about the strength of a woman.
But in our Fijian-Indian community, when I was growing up, this sort of strength was reserved for goddesses. It was abundantly clear to me that boys were more treasured. The phrase often used was that "girls were another families property...". Our life's purpose was to get married and spend the rest of our lives looking after our husbands and their families... And that is why I ran away to Australia :-). Admittedly I did have a honeymoon period basking in the freedoms afforded to a woman in a Western society. But then I entered the workforce and realised that even in this otherwise egalitarian society, inequality persisted - and it wasn't just in the workforce either but also in homes, relationships and more broadly in society (sadly Brittany Higgins' story is only the latest reminder). It's not all bad news though. An amazing shift has started to take place over the last few years; a grassroots movement driven by women and men of all ages and origins demanding a different narrative - for their girls and for their boys.
The change is particularly profound in the children's picture books category which has seen an influx of diverse characters and stories - including a focus on mindfulness.
Seeing this has been the wind in my sail for finally mustering up the courage to co-found Wise As Stories, a children's publishing house with the mission to create beautiful stories that plant seeds of wisdom.
I am proud to be joining this glorious movement to write a different narrative, tell a different story, create stories that I wish I'd grown up with - quirky ones, that come with a side of wisdom
On international women's day 2021 I choose to challenge false narratives.
Keep a lookout for our new picture book series, Willow the Wonderer, due for release in November 2022.