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It is that time of year again: International Women’s Day. Iconic women from our past and present spring to mind when we think of this day. Emmeline Pankhurst (1858–1928), an integral voice in the suffragette movement in the UK; Marie Curie (1867–1934) a Polish physicist and chemist who was the first person to win the Nobel Prize in both chemistry and physics, Rosa Parks (1913–2005) who fought for Civil rights in the US; Benazir Bhutto (1953–2007) , the first woman to lead a Muslim state and Malala Yousafzai (1997– ) a Pakistani schoolgirl who has campaigned for the right to education for girls. The list goes on and with the rise of social media. TV and film also includes celebrity influencers such as Emma Watson, Oprah and Beyonce who all speak about female empowerment and sisterhood. Living abroad as a single woman has impressed upon me more than ever the importance of women supporting other women.
Other women have always been the source of my support and inspiration. My teachers, my therapist, my friends, my family. In your home country you are often surrounded by such people. I certainly was. Even when I was at University my family would often visit and my mum, sister and gran would mail me cards and little packages to keep me going. During the holidays I would spend hours laughing with my school friends and comparing stories about our new adventures in different cities. I was filled with fear and dread at the prospect of not being close to these people (specifically these women) when I made the big move to China.
Once I arrived in China I realised these fears were unfounded: I instantly found a new supportive network of friends, largely through Girl Gone International (GGI). GGI has allowed me to meet like-minded women and make connections not only in my resident city, but also across China and beyond. It has provided a platform for support in times of desperate need: broken bones, food poisoning, emotional break-ups (the latter not me as I am yet to venture into the dating world in China!), humour, and companionship. Also, great tips on where to get the best facial in town or the most delicious burger! Moving abroad for the first time, or second time, or one hundredth time can be daunting. Each new country, new city, and new apartment can throw unexpected challenges at you. There are always others facing those same battles, or who have
More importantly, I came to realise that, surrounding myself with strong, independent and creative women for support, I had the power within me to make positive changes, pursue new opportunities and even be comfortable in my own company. Yes, International Women’s Day is about celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of other women, but it is also about celebrating ourselves: independent women living outside of our comfort zones! Only when we start appreciating and fulfilling our own potentials can any real wider social change take place. We become better versions of ourselves and more adept at empowering others.
Self-love and self-care may sound like millennial drivel, but for me they form an integral part of celebrating ourselves, and by extension a way of nourishing our abilities to turn this love and care out towards others. Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself. This is particularly important for women, who have historically been pushed to one side, patronised and even demonised in some cultures. Self-love is a radical realisation that you do not need external validation to be worthy.
You are worthy in and of yourself. Happy International Women’s Day GGI.
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