Some time ago I introduced a new series, the one that is as close to my personal beliefs as it is to public diplomacy and global trends – #girlpower. Women empowerment is a trend acknowledged broadly by such bodies as the World Economic Forum, UN Women, the OECD and others (here I list databases and research websites explaining this trend). It is also a public diplomacy dimension developed and popularised by some countries, like Canada, Sweden, Iceland, the US (in the times of Barack Obama) and others.
I am happy to be able to have a closer look at this trend on my blog. This look is also personal as some weeks ago I decided to share an article on women who inspire me in my everyday life. This article was very popular – thank you! I received comments encouraging me to expand the article and to prepare part II. I thought that the International Women’s Day #IWD2018 is a perfect time to do it.
Therefore, here it is – more and more inspirational women especially for you, dear readers. And who are your role-models?
- Amelia Earhart (dedicated to Beata M. :)) – the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean (1932). She was also the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean as a passenger (1928) and the first ever person to fly solo from Hawaii to California, from Los Angeles to Mexico City and others. She was a women empowerment campaigner and a member of the National Woman’s Party. Amelia Earhart also helped to establish an organisation uniting female pilots (and promoting aviation among women). She did not bother herself with stereotypes and the traditional roles of women. She dreamed big and her biggest dream was to conduct a flight across the globe – “the world flight”. She has prepared and launched it together with Fred Noonan. The flight was a big event, traced all over the world. Unfortunately, it was not finished – the plane disappeared somewhere near Nukumanu Islands of Papua New Guinea and was never found – “the woman just vanished!”
- Martyna Wojciechowska – is a Polish media personality – and so much more than that. She is the director of “Travel Channel”, earlier she led the Polish edition of “National Geographic”. Known especially for her TV series “Woman at the edge of the world” where she presents outstanding women living in Peru, Pakistan, Romania, India, and many other countries. She is the second Polish woman who climbed Seven Summits. She climbed Mount Everest only one and a half years after a car crash when she broke her spine. Martyna Wojciechowska is also the only Polish female up to date who finished the Paris-Dakar race. She directed a winning documentary “The Ghost People” on the situation of albinos in Tanzania and adopted the main character of the movie, a girl named Kabula who was rescued from slaughter and now studies law. She is a philanthropist – helped building a haematology clinic for children with cancer and supports many other campaigns aimed at helping people in need. She is a single mother of a wonderful girl. Her motto? Impossible doesn’t exist.
- Meryl Streep – the greatest actress of our time, hands down. Often called a chameleon, because she can transform into Kathy Graham, Margaret Thatcher, Julia Child, Florence Foster Jenkins, Emmeline Pankhurst and many, many other heroines. Born in 1949 she does not respect the old tradition of “no roles for mature women in Hollywood”. She has been nominated 21 times to Oscars (won 3, for now) and 31 times to Golden Globes (won 8, for now) – including this year for her role in “The Post”. She has received tens of other awards, too. She studied acting at Yale where she, for instance, played in Andrzej Wajda’s interpretation of Dostoyevsky’s “Demons”. She obtains doctorate honoris causa from Harvard University. Meryl Streep is the publicist of the National Women’s History Museum, sponsors scholarships at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and supports gender equality campaigns. She is a mother of four children, married for 40 years.
- Frida Kahlo – a Mexican artist. She suffered from polio whilst her childhood. As a student she was seriously injured in a crash that made it impossible for her to become a mother and made her suffer from pain until the end of her life. During convalescence, lying in her bed, Frida Kahlo started painting, especially self-portraits documenting the way she and her body were changing – and femininity in a very broad sense. She contested traditional roles of females and underlined the potential of women in her political expressions and arts. In 1939 she had her own exhibition in Paris and Louvre bought one of her paintings (Maxico treated it as an honours and privilege for the whole country). “Frida”, the biopic with Salma Hayek, directed by Julie Taymor, was an Oscar-winning masterpiece that empowered the global phenomenon and popularity of Frida Kahlo, and even strengthen her image of a feminist icon.
- Janina Ochojska – she is a leader of the Polish Humanitarian Action – an NGO that she established as early as in 1994. Poland regained freedom only in 1989 and was in a poor economic condition, but Janina Ochojska seemed to believe that Poles would engage into helping people in a much bigger need. She treated helping others as a symbol of the regained freedom. Janina Ochojska organised first aid transports to Sarajevo already in 1992. Further actions included transports to Chechnya and Kosovo, as well as Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine, Somalia, Iraq. The Action operates from a permanent mission in the latter country. One of their specialties is providing access to water and sanitary infrastructure in zones of conflict, natural disasters and extreme poverty. It started to provide support also to refugees and migrants settling down in Poland. Since 1998 the Action has been running a programme for feeding poor children in Poland. Janina Ochojska is handicapped due to Heine-Medina disease that she suffered from in her childhood.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a Nigerian novelist, living in the U.S. since she was 19known especially for “Americanah” that will soon be televised – Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira (whose friendship and cooperation is probably a theme for a separate article) are going to write the screenplay. “Americanah” tells the story of a Nigerian female living her life both in the U.S. and Nigeria, broadly covering the race issues in America and a complicated contemporary history of Nigeria. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is also known for her performance on TEDx titled “We should all be feminists” and a book based on the speech. Beyoncé sampled it into her song “Flawless”! In 2017 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie published a book on rising a daughter to become a strong woman, titled “Dear Ijeawele, or “A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions”. The author is a John Hopkins University and Yale University alumna, as well as a Princeton University and MacArthur Foundation fellow. In 2017, she was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- “Hidden Figures” – the most empowering movie I have seen in years, due to both the story and the fantastic acting of Taraji P. Henson – Katherine G. Johnson, Octavia Spencer – Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monáe – Mary Jackson (Mahershala Ali stars there, too!). Do you know who stands behind the successes of the early stages of the U.S. space programme conducted by NASA? Female African-American mathematicians and engineers often called “human computers”. They not only took part in the U.S. – USSR space competition (we watch the preparation to and the launch of John Glenn into orbit), they not only fought with time and technological obstacles, but they also fought unjust, unfair principles at NASA and in the society, principles applied towards women and minorities. This is a fantastic movie praising hard work and perseverance, the best coaching session you do not have to pay big money for. The story of these three women makes NASA mottos – “dream big” and “failure is not an option” – true.
- You! – I wrote about YOU already in part I but think that I need to repeat and repeat and repeat these words: You, who care for your families, your relationships, yourselves every day. You, who sometimes have to fight for people and things that are dear to you. Single mothers who bring up children on their own and bravely make ends meet. Professionals struggling the impostor syndrome. Scientists not discouraged in fulfilling their dreams despite being constantly unappreciated and underrated at work. Teachers, nannies, nurses who do priceless jobs but their salaries do not reflect that. Journalists and activists speaking up about women’s issues that are so uncomfortable for the guards of the status quo. You don’t have to make the headlines to be role-models. We – your friends and colleagues – are watching you and are proud of you!
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY! DREAM BIG!