The “Live Loudly” of this campaign is, primarily, to encourage us to be loud and clear about our wishes for organ donation. Then it is an encouragement to any who have had a transplant to show themselves, donor families and everyone else, that life after a transplant can be lived to the full. For Lucia, Live Loudly also became a personal call to raise her voice as a young person, a young woman, and to inspire others to raise their own. International Women’s Day was a day Lucia wouldn’t miss.
This one’s personal. I’ve been outnumbered for a long time. Since our family became four, I’ve been the male quarter. I married into a family of four sisters and their mother, their father died before I met them. Five women shaping their own lives with independence and commitment help shape my own. I could also have learned much more than I did about strong women and men from my own mum and dad if I had paid closer attention, but that’s another story.
Now I’m a dad and a husband and trying to catch up on my learning.
My school, if I could learn how to learn in it, includes many classrooms.
Two daughters, for a start, one of whom started this website. Lucia took the very raw experiences of her struggles with physical and mental health and bravely turned them into resources for others. We didn’t only travel alongside her; we were taught by her as she used her story to make a difference. Lucia trusted herself to others, becoming vulnerable as she opened her story in small groups and conferences, and the more public platforms of the website and the media. She spoke openly with all ages about transplants and deceased donors, mental health and eating disorders, breaking taboos and stigmas in the process, all with a deeply contagious spirit of gratitude and joy.
“What I’m most proud of is when someone tells me they have signed on to the organ donor register and told their family, because of something I’ve said, or when another young person finds their own voice about something they are passionate about.” A convinced feminist and proud to encourage and strengthen the green shoots of girl power wherever she found them. Beyond her short life Lucia has so much yet to teach me, to encourage and inspire me along…
And Alice, her older sister. Steeping herself in the strength of women who make a difference. Spotting the spaces where women are left out, left behind, interrupted or silenced. Provoking my thoughts and self-examination with her questions, her own excited and enthusiastic learning about the women who challenge what should never be. “Daddy, do you know who Gina Martin is? And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? She’s a good example that women can be strong and influential in places of power without copying male power models. And have you seen that most countries that have dealt with the pandemic better are led by women? And there is no possible excuse for paying women less than men for doing the same job!”
Watching Alice absorb the energy from her exploration is no spectator sport. I’m sucked into the whirlpool, bits of my world spin around and face the other way before I’m spun off to think again. As I write, in come links to the Women of the World Festival, packed with virtual sessions from the 1st – 21st March.
And, of course, Rachel, my partner in life, mum to our daughters, who with gentle tenacity has remained stable through our imperfect storms and been the lifting breeze in which our daughters learned to spread their wings.
To step sideways, slightly, my education on gender equality in its wider spectrum, is mostly from the women I know who often seem less threatened, more generous and more ready to welcome space for equality than many in the male quarters. I wonder why that might be?
We know the majority of “frontline workers” in many places, giving care and services in the face of Covid, will be women. And in Myanmar today, women stand on another dangerous frontline, some already shot and killed for saying “Enough!” to a very macho, brutal military dictatorship.
Women through the centuries have lit the way, shining like starlight on dark paths. Today’s equally committed and courageous peers for young people are hope for tomorrow.
You’d think with all that I’d be a shining example of a man’s good and affirming ability to share this planet respectfully with “the greater half”. But that’s it. I’m a man and, until things have gone a long way further down this road “we” take for granted, I will be invisibly, tacitly, educated, shaped by assumptions and attitudes I’m too steeped in to recognise without some help. I may step out of the box sometimes, often even, but there’s always that hidden elastic of male privilege that will snap me back to default mode and I’ll have to make the effort to strain against it again. And again.
Mercifully, there are those ready to educate me and my type. For my sake and for theirs. And, in my better moments, I want to be in their classroom. I want to learn, to see, to understand. To do it differently. For me. And for my daughters, my wife, and those hundreds of “frontline” women who have shown us a quality of care and kindness that could not be bettered. I’m grateful for those classrooms. Those who teach us a language of kindness, of inclusion, even if they must work hard to catch my distracted attention.
Today is a good opportunity to celebrate those women, on the international stage, the hospital wards, at the supermarket checkout, or in the room with you.
As I write this it slowly dawns on me that most who read it will probably be women. So, it’s your day to celebrate. Have a look at that Women of the World Festival, or any other honouring of the Day. Be stronger for it. Be more visible. I’m sorry so many of us, yes, me included, are such slow learners. Don’t give up, and don’t wait for us to catch up.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. Treat yourself to Lucia’s own words from a couple of past International Women’s Days…