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  • Writer's pictureSeed Waikato

Diverse Voices, Inclusive Spaces: Empowering Women Beyond International Women's Day

Updated: Apr 5

International Women’s Day is a global movement that aims to bring light to the hardships and successes of women across the globe. It is a time to reflect on progress and set goals for gender equity in the coming year. Each year International Women’s Day is celebrated around a key theme to drive discussions. For 2024, the theme is "Inspire Inclusion".

The team at Seed Waikato attended a panel discussion event, Gender Equality as a Catalyst for Change, organised by YWCA of Hamilton in partnership with Impact Hub Waikato, to explore how we can inspire inclusion. We heard from panel members Pieta Bouma, Emma Sinclair, Rachel Afeaki, keynote speaker Elina Ashimbayeva, and Seed Waikato’s Relationships Lead / Kaiawhina, Jahvaya Wheki, as the MC.

During the event, we spoke about the barriers to gender equity and how we can overcome them. Pieta Bouma spoke passionately about understanding women as multifaceted, with different core experiences of womanhood and femininity - and the struggles that come with them. She expressed that intersectionality is an often misrepresented experience within feminism which causes barriers for disabled, queer, BIPOC communities, and more to participate in gender equity movements. Pieta asked us to think about who is being excluded from the conversation.

“Our feminism needs to be responsive and include all types of women.”

Pieta Bouma

The panel explored the idea of advocating for a diverse range of voices in every space we find ourselves in. Think about who we are sharing space with and who is not being represented. Emma added that she always considers Papatuaanuku (Mother Earth) and saves a seat for her in conversations/decision-making processes.

“Why am I here? Is there a better person for this? Is there another perspective?... There is no fear of inclusion if I genuinely believe there’s enough to go around. Inclusion gives more power to all.”

Pieta Bouma

Creating a gender-equitable world is more than a token action, it’s a lifestyle that should extend past International Women’s Day and into every other day of the year. Emma spoke about how we can support women by empowering them in their day-to-day activities. Which can mean saving space for women in conversations, decision-making processes, and business. Business is an often overlooked part of how everyday people can support social movements - like gender equity.

“Vote with your wallet. Your bank statement should support your beliefs"

Emma Sinclair

Seed Waikato spoke with father/daughter duo Sophie and Stephen McNickle, volunteers with Freedom Co-op. We asked them how they use business to financially empower women internationally.

Freedom Co-op is an outlet in New Zealand for goods made by Freedom Businesses, businesses empowering women who have been trapped in the sex trade by providing them with alternative employment opportunities. By purchasing products through Freedom Co-op, you can support these brave women, and give them a chance to rebuild their lives and achieve a brighter future.

Stephen shared one of his most memorable moments at Freedom Co-op. He explained that while working at an Easter camp a few years ago, he spoke with a young woman, a teen, who felt touched by the Freedom Co-op movement. Stephen let her know that she could support them by purchasing a product made by a woman exiting modern-day slavery or by donating. The young woman said that she didn’t have any money to donate.

Later, she returned to the stall where Stephen was working and asked him if she could donate $2.50. Stephen thanked her and asked why she wanted to donate $2.50 specifically. She said “Well, I could either just go and spend it on food or some other rubbish, or I could make a difference. And this is all I’ve got.”

Stephen told us that collective action and standing true to your values can create long-term change.

“You can make a difference, no matter how small an impact you think you’re having, at least it’s an impact. It's taken. It’s like, you know, what is the value of a drop in a bucket, but actually, if you have enough drops the bucket gets full. Choosing where to spend your money, choosing how you decide you’re going to get involved, all of those things will make an impact. And the biggest lie of society is that if we sit back, someone else will do it. The reality is, if someone else was going to do it, they probably would have already done it. Really, it is up to each and every one of us to actually go and say ‘You know what?’ What can I do? Big, small. Doesn’t matter. What can I do to make a difference?”

Sophie expanded on this statement by sharing that supporting Freedom Co-op is far from the only way to vote for your beliefs using money. She encouraged us to find the best way to support causes that we are passionate about and that works best for us. She even shared resources to find out which companies align with your values (linked at the bottom of this article).

Now, as International Women’s Month comes to a close, Seed Waikato would like to invite you to plant a seed of change in your mind for gender equity. What can you do in the next week or month to bring that ideal world closer to that reality?

How can you contribute to gender equity?

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