Time to Shine!
By Soko Made, WEN board member
It’s March! It’s Springtime! It’s Women’s History Month! March 8th is one of my favorite days of the year because it is International Women’s Day! It is my New Year where I finally feel ready to take on the challenges of the world. It is a time to inspire and to empower the Women in my community and yet, this year, I feel as though I have nothing to contribute. No words of wisdom, no inspirational quotes. I just feel drained and bleh…yes, it is a word.
Why do I feel this way? Women are rising in film, in sports, in science, in sustainability, and in politics. Unfortunately, it continues to feel as though no matter what great strides Women have gone through, what they are being recognized for, and what they have accomplished, being a Woman continues to be an uphill struggle. 2020 was the year of many challenges; the COVID-19 pandemic, blatant racism, and the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Amidst these challenges, I have seen Women rise up and be the catalysts for much needed change. Some of the Women who have been inspirational include Stacey Abrams, Leah Thomas, Greta Thunberg, Jacinda Arden, Ava DuVernay, Vanessa Nakate, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, and of course, Vice President Kamala Harris. Reflecting on the challenges that these Women have taken on and the impressive positive impacts they have brought about has made me appreciate how resilient we are and has inspired me to continue on my journey towards an inclusive and sustainable environment.
It seems appropriate that “Choose to Challenge” is the theme for International Women’s Day this year. So how exactly am I choosing to challenge myself to bring about an inclusive and sustainable environment? By spending time alone and reflecting on what is important, taking long walks, seeking advice from close friends, collaborating with those within my field of expertise, learning from those beyond my environmental sphere, and for additional inspiration, donning my vintage ring with the words SHINE etched on the front.
I have had it for over five years and consider it to be my lucky charm. It is a reminder that through all the challenges I have encountered and will come across, I have the wisdom and respect of the Women who support and believe in me. I will SHINE from within because I am true to who I am.
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson has become my inspiration this past year and has empowered me to challenge myself. Her article “I’m a black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet” resonated with me because over the last year, I have felt that I have to choose between racial equity and the environment. Dr. Johnson’s article was published a day after I penned a thought-provoking email to my colleagues, something I would never have thought of doing because it was deeply personal and it left me vulnerable. At the same time, it was necessary for me to show my colleagues that we do not and should not have to choose between the environment, racial equity, and justice! They are all interconnected and the more we understand this connection, the easier it will be to create the inclusive and sustainable environment we want. Sending the email allowed me to find my voice and to find the strength to rise to the challenge and SHINE.
When March 8th arrives, I will Choose to Challenge myself and others to change the status quo and do better. Through my words and actions, I will hopefully inspire and empower the Women in my community as well as myself to bring about the change that I would like to see. As Maya Angelou so eloquently stated “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”