Celebrated on March 8th, International Women’s Day’s aims to focus global attention on themes of gender equality, bias, stereotypes and discrimination. This is a perfect occasion to reflect on the significance of this date in 2022 and beyond. We speak with The Nine advisory board members Dr Audrey-Flore Ngomsik, Founder & CEO of Trianon Scientific Communications, and Louma Albik, Founder of SB Overseas. Interview by Sidwell Lambotte.
International Women’s Day has become a significant day of celebration worldwide, but what does it means to you, and what message do you think should be conveyed this year in particular?
A-F. N: International Women Day is for me, a day to remember that even if women constitute 50% of the world’s population, they still have to fight for equal rights. Whatever the progresses made in the last century, this day reminds us that until women get the same rights than men all over the word, the fight to obtain it should go on.
For that, I like to celebrate women of today, and also take a step back to see what were key moments for gender equality the year before.
In 2021, the most significant points for me were: 8 countries elected a woman at the highest level of decision-making e.g. presidency, vice presidency Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and first African to lead the World Trade Organization Spain strengthened its laws against rape The legacy of Henrietta Lacks has been finally recognised. These are achievements to be proud of!
L. A: The 8th of March is a special day that is close to my heart. Every day we fight for our rights, to do something different. It’s a celebration of how far we’ve come. We need to highlight, even the small things, so that other women can see and invest too. We need to open minds and show what we can achieve.
The 8th of March is also a day of solidarity because there are still a lot of women who are beaten, raped, killed… Maybe thanks to this day these women will find the courage to tell their story.
Ultimately, I hope that one day we can have a day where we don’t just celebrate women but the victory of our rights and what we deserve. Women give a lot. This day is a reminder that there is always hope; together as women we can find the light for all women around the world, everywhere. If we light a light for one woman, many families will be touched, many generations can change.
How does International Women’s Day fit into the wider conversation about feminism?
A-F. N: I think that on this day especially, feminism is an attempt to guarantee equal opportunities and equity for both men and women, which do not exist right now. It is called feminism and not humanism because we need to name the problem. Feminism is the way to tell women that they matter equally. The same is true of International Women’s Day.
L. A: People sometimes think that feminism is about hating men. For me, feminism means women together, it means getting the same rights as men. We are not at war with men! Feminism is the will to give women their rights. We “do everything,” we have the “right to do everything” but we don’t have the same rights as men.
The Nine is Brussels’ first female-focused members’ club – why do you think it has appealed to so many women?
A-F. N: According to a study led by Anja Prummer, men connect with more people than women, but women connect with peers and relationships that are well connected. I like the idea that women build a network of quality. We often talk about the glass ceiling in corporations – this is a frontier women cannot seem to break. However, The Nine is the place of choice for women who wish to break it. What a wonderful chance to be able to network with connected women willing to lift each other.
What I particularly like at The Nine is the diversity of the members. It is the first time I see so many women, from different backgrounds, networking, sharing and lifting each other up. This is very inspiring. And of course, for me personally, being able to raise awareness on climate change challenges, and tell people what they can do at their level to have a real impact thanks to the monthly “sustainable living series” event I facilitate, makes me very grateful.
L.A: It can be hard for women to connect. At The Nine, the idea is to create a base where women can come together. There, people talk of their difficulties, they share, and they help each other. I think until now women have always been in the second line and the mission of The Nine is to bring women together, fight for women’s rights, and empower each other. It can also be hard for women to connect, but at the club, they have a ‘home’ where they can talk of their difficulties, share, and help each other.
What we do at SB Overseas as well as at The Nine is to advocate on others’ behalf, raise awareness, organise conferences, or even to work in the field. I think we have to take this initiative and say to ourselves “nothing is impossible, I can change the world” and start with our surroundings; friends, family, and so on. The only limit is death. We have to fight and be up to the task.
What is your vision of the future for young women in our society, be it here in Europe or anywhere else?
A.F.N: I wish that women in the future, in our society, become decision makers in both the public and private sectors. And that that becomes normal! I also wish to see women being recognized as talented people, rather than being lauded because they are women. For example, we should not be celebrated because we are the ‘first woman’ to do something; we should be applauded because we have a particular talent or skill, and that we achieved something.
L.A.: I am very, very proud because every year we get better, every year we see that people open their minds and question the place of women. They wonder why they are placed second. With the work I do in the Middle East, I see that women are taking their role now. They are working, they are going back to school, they are managing their lives and they are saying stop! My vision and my hope for the future is to be equal, to have the same rights and not to have to ask for them. It may take time, but it will come. We can do it!
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