Happy #IWD2023

Happy #IWD2023

Jacinta Linden, CEO at Bolster Community

On March 7th 2023, with my forever curious colleague Sarah Fox, we were delighted to join a panel of imminent & inspiring women at the University of Ulster International Women’s Day on the theme of embracing equity. Hosted by UU lecturers Nancy Brown & Joanne Watson, and the university Wo/men’s network I wasn’t really sure how the day would evolve, but I knew that with Jo and Nancy involved this would definitely not be a tokenistic, Hallmark card-type gig!

Earlier that day, I met a lovely local lady with the same namesake as my late mother Bridie and Bridget my grandmother and I was minded about how good and powerful “Bridget’s and Bridies and ….women, in general, tend to be. As we spoke, I heard how as a mum and partner, this bright effervescent woman had only felt fully fulfilled when with the help of Women’s Aid and the local NIHE office, she was able to escape an abusive marriage and build a new life for her and her children. According to this youthful 70-something, her life had been on hold until she managed to leave her marriage and buoyed by her children and several part-time jobs, she finally had the life she needed. I told the lady where I was off to and she said Well “take my story with you”!

As I travelled to Belfast with Sarah, we spoke of the difference between equity and equality and how as individuals we need to be gentler on ourselves so we can take better care of those we love and care for. I thought about the Bridget’s and Bridies, and all of the fabulous women who made my life more fulfilled and enable me to be a better human. Today I want to say thank you to my amazing sisters, aunts, sisters-in-law, mother -in law, friends, colleagues & volunteers we are some tribe!

Back in UU land Belfast, I was surrounded by a very diverse and welcoming audience of inspiring women and men and a beautiful five-month-old baby (who I was delighted to meet after the event). The tone of the UU #IWD2023 event was an informal, immersive one, with lots of challenging thoughts and input. I came away feeling genuinely privileged to have enjoyed the company and discussions with the panel, and audience before and after the panel event.

Some of my takeaways from yesterday’s event are at the front of my consciousness today,

· There’s too much pressure on teenage girls, we need more girls to shine to stand out, to be less focused on “fitting in”, we need to encourage girls to be proud of their natural beauty & not aspire to be life clone like dolls

· We need less co-opetition with and between women and more kindness, no one knows more than a woman how many plates we are juggling behind the shiny façade and how far a kind word carries

· Ask often and with kindness “how can I help; how can I support you? use our networks as leverage to build a more equitable future for women.

I left Belfast Immensely impressed by the wonderful women and men I had met. The New UU faculty is superb (even though the designer of the ladies’ loos was clearly not a woman!)

I absolutely loved the energy and buzz that comes with a busy City centre student environment and for a few wistful moments, I wished I could be back embracing learning and being inspired in such a fantastic thinking and learning space. Later I realised my high stool days are a memory, and anyway my skirt was too short for such posturing, and also … the car park had moved from when I arrived. Once I worked out that I had exited said university by an alternative route, it was time for this IWD woman to just go home put the feet up, and conclude, Jacinta, your studentt days are well and truly in the past.

Happy IWD 2023 ladies