Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), and while I’m a feminist and not at all afraid to say so, this is no feminist rant….in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
In 2005, I was living and working in Ukraine during IWD. I’d never celebrated it, talked about it, or even recognized it with other women. As I walked to work that morning, in the snow, a strange man approached me. He handed me a large bouquet of flowers and wished me a Happy IWD! Wow. Never, in all my years did a random man give me a gift.
When I arrived at work, there were several more at my desk, some with the name of the man who gave the flowers, and some given anonymously. I continued to get more throughout the day. It seemed like Valentines Day in an American classroom, not like IWD. Why were grown women getting numerous bouquets of flowers, I thought to myself.
Today, I plan to give flowers to the women I’ve met in Plymouth, England who work on behalf of the homeless in the city. They run Shekinah Charity shop. Linda, the boss, Margaret (who I’ve fondly named Margarita), and Star. They are women making a difference every single day.
I’ve come to believe that those flowers back in Ukraine, given by only men to women, signified something much greater than a Valentines gesture, which is what I shamefully thought at the time. The flowers were given by the men from the heart, and the men who gave them were truly full of joy and proud to have women in this world professionally, as friends personally, as wives, daughters and sisters, and even as a woman they didn’t know, walking down the street going to work.
Ukrainians value all of these things and much much more. The country’s people are resilient against war, aggression, poverty, an absence of rights, corruption, human trafficking, and slow change towards a stronger democratic nation. Men do truly recognize the women, their accomplishments, and their role in a challenging society. And, for the ones who don’t appreciate a woman’s legitimate role there, there are plenty of men working diligently to change their society for better human rights.
See what feminists in Kyiv are saying about IWD:
Jo’el Worldwear – supports artisans affected by war, trafficking, natural disasters and other economically challenging situations.