Friday, March 8, 2013

Supporting women for International Women's Day: Making a Good Return

Today is International Women's Day, which means a lot of different things to people all over the world.

Some see it as being about increasing the political power and influence of women.

Some are more focused on reproductive rights and the impact that has on women's lives.

There is a lot of work being done on the culture of sexual and family violence in which too many women, in all societies, live and die daily.

Some use IWD as an opportunity to celebrate the many literary, political, social and financial achievements of women over time - achievements that are all the more remarkable for the adverse conditions in which they were often made.

For me, IWD is about all these things, but most of all, it's about imagining a future in which being a woman is a matter of unalloyed and unabashed pride, certainty and wonder. I want a future for my daughters where, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote, "girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns". I want the humanness of women - their full humanity and capacity - to be so natural, so embedded, that we *all*, men and women alike, share the cloak of invisibility that being "the default human" currently bestows primarily only on (straight) men.

One of the things I always think about on IWD is the reality of my high level of privilege, despite my femaleness. Yes, I am a woman - not default-person - but I'm also well-educated, financially secure, in a relatively politically and economically stable country, employed, heterosexual and temporarily reasonably able bodied. I always spend some time on IWD thinking about how much harder life is for women and indeed men who don't have the vectors of privilege that I do, and who may never have access to what are, in reality, the very modest resources needed to start them towards economic self-sufficiency.

Economic power, which starts with the power to not be poor, is a massive signal boost to women's power overall, not to mention the fact that it positively affects the lives of children, communities and men.

Australian micro-finance charity Good Return, which is one of the aid organisations I personally contribute to,  has set a target of funding 300 micro-loans to women in the Asia-Pacific region in March, in celebration of IWD.

Guy Winship, Good Return CEO notes: “In these poor communities, children are growing up in poverty and with little education, yet in these same communities are smart women with business ideas but no resources to make them a reality.
“When we pull one woman out of poverty, she takes four other people with her. We have the power to make a massive difference.”

These women are people who have no access to traditional finance - and no hope of ever paying back punitive interest schedules even if they did. Providing interest-free loans to finance business ventures is one of the most effective and powerful ways that people with truckloads of economic privilege (like me) can pay it forward to women who just need a hand extended to help them get started.

For me, on IWD, I will:
- sing my heart out to the Indigo Girls
- read and re-read Sojourner Truth
- kiss my daughters and tell them how awesome they really are
- make a contribution to Good Return to help Helena Naufahu, a Tongan farmer aiming to stabilise her business model

Because, women are great. I mean, really great - capable of mighty things - wherever they are, whoever they are. In a world that spends a lot of time celebrating male greatness, I think it's awesome to have a chance to say to another woman, I recognise your greatness, and I support it with my whole heart.

For more information about Good Return's IWD campaign, or to make a contribution, click here. And everyone - have a wonderful International Women's Day - be you a woman, a man, an intersex person, a child, or a teen. Equality is about loving us all, every one.


  1. Thank you Kathy for your wonderful words. I completely agree with your sentiments and hope for the future... a future where an International Women's Day isn't necessary because it's unfathomable that there would be any difference between the rights of genders.

    And thank you especially for supporting Helena and Good Return. You truly are making a huge difference in her life!

    Good Return

  2. That's a great concept with Good Return - I love what they are doing to mark IWD in such a concrete way with the 300 loan target.