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Celebrating women globally!

Shani Bishop shares her thoughts on female relationships and International Women's Day.

Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Shani Bishop

As I get older, I like women more and more. That's not to say I like men less - I feel I have more connection with women.

The why

Women's life experiences are very different from men's because of our biology, and I feel that some things are just women's business and should be kept as such. For example, recently, my sister-in-law gave birth. This is when women close rank and help in ways men just can't. Seeing a new mother's struggle and supporting them gives such satisfaction, especially as all that knowledge of breastfeeding and baby care becomes redundant so quickly. I think these experiences bring women closer and build unique bonds. This allows women to make connections and deepen understanding on another level.

When I look back at moments when someone famous has died, and the world stood still, it is often women's deaths that cause this. For me personally, it was Princess Diana. The deaths of Freddie Mercury and George Michael saddened me, but it was nothing compared to how I felt about Diana's death.

How it manifests

For me, it means that I seek out women's company more. I'm happy to go to quiz nights, girly nights at friends' homes or just have various friends to interact with. Since being an expat, I feel certain female friends also provide different roles in my life. Some friends are for emotional support, while others are about business or career. Some remind me of my past and where I've come from, while others understand just a facet of me. We reflect back at each other on this connection, so it becomes really fulfilling. Before being an expat, I wanted female friends to fulfil every role in my life, but now I definitely look for different aspects in individuals. I really want to develop my friendships too. For various reasons, I know a lot about money and pensions - these are not typical topics for women, and often women are poorer for not discussing them. I always talk to my friends about these. I want my friends to be okay in all parts of their life, not just one part. Often my (unsolicited!) advice is listened to but not acted on (sometimes with sad consequences). I don't think this matters - it's just important to keep going and helping. In every system and society, small advantages can be made through smart moves or choices; women need to be on top of this and not rely on men.

Women's lives around the world are so different. In Denmark, women work full-time. In Japan, women are often full-time mothers and leave work when they get married. In the UK, there are various roles, full-time, part-time etc. - seeing how this impacts is fascinating. When I lived in Japan, I was horrified to learn how little choice women seemed to have. If they didn't go to university, their options were limited. By the end of my stay, I realised that the lack of choice actually made Japanese women happier. Pursuits like preparing amazing lunch boxes for their children and husbands and being good housewives were really valued. I think the bonds between women in patriarchal societies are stronger than those in liberated countries. Japanese women really close ranks in a way unknown to western women. It is this that I love the most, the ability of women everywhere to adapt and get the best out of life regardless of what life throws at us.

Celebrating International Women's Day 2023

The theme for International Women's Day this year is Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender-equal future. Based on the priority theme for the United Nations 67th Commission on the Status of Women – Cracking the Code highlights the role that bold, transformative ideas, inclusive technologies, and accessible education can play in combatting discrimination and the marginalisation of women globally.

Innovation is a driver of change, and by embracing new technologies and championing women's unique skills and knowledge in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM), we can accelerate our progress towards a gender-equal future.

While innovation can transform lives, we know there are still many barriers to equality. Access to inclusive digital technologies and education is critical. We must innovate to close the digital divide that keeps so many women offline and away from new opportunities.

By ensuring equal access to education for women and girls and creating clear pathways and inclusive workplaces for women in STEM, we can leverage the transformative power of inclusive innovation, so critical to cracking the code to gender equality.

For more information, visit the UN Women website.

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