Putting our time (and energy) where our mouth is—
to make change happen on International Women’s Day 2019

by Reshmi Meyer

International Women’s Day is a great day. It’s an opportunity to campaign (with a slightly louder voice) and to celebrate the amazing achievements of women. It’s a time where we (depending on which part of the world you were born in) congratulate ourselves on how far we have come, and then reluctantly acknowledge how much work there is still to done. Prominent figures come forward to lend their voice to an organisation and cause and feminist and development organisations alike compete for airtime. There will be of media coverage (perhaps until Kim Kardashian changes her outfit). You know the drill. I don’t want to be too cynical, just put it out there.

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This year’s theme #betterbalance is an interesting choice, actually.  By its very nature it focuses on women in the west (just ask women in developing countries what ‘better balance’ means when they walk for miles to get a bucket of water, or don’t have enough to feed their families, let alone themselves). I can just smell the excitement of the “wellbeing” and “mindfulness” business and community types – advertising revenues will go into overdrive! But I’m partial to some of it, so I don’t mind tremendously.

There will be the usual call to action for change and a rallying call against a system that continues to disadvantage women, forcing them to choose from limited options; a society that demands “super women” gunning at all fronts (as young girls, women, partners, mothers and care givers).

But perhaps what is often missing is actual ACTION. So this year the About Times team decided to DO something to tackle the loneliness and isolation to which we know that the army of women working from home are particularly susceptible: dashing to their kitchen table from the school drop off to work alone, not breaking for lunch or conversation or any distraction at all, before running back to the school gates.

Decisions made in search of freedom and autonomy – which for many seemed like the only way to combine parenting and work – have trapped and isolated many women at home.

Aside from questions of loneliness, there is also the question of productivity. Are we really doing our best work in this way? Could we get more done by working together sometimes? Would productivity increase? Would our wellbeing improve? How can we make change happen?