In May 1941, my nanna Chana and her family were rounded up in the ghetto where they had been living for over a year. They were taken to a train station and loaded up into a cattle carriage bound for a labour camp. After two days of travel, no food, no water and no toilets, their train finally arrived at Auschwitz.
Upon arrival, “selection” immediately took place under control of the infamous Dr Josef Mengele. During selection, my nanna was told to go right. Every single other member of her family, her parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, were all sent left – to the gas chambers. It was the last time she would see any of them.
It’s a tough story to tell and an almost impossible experience for me to imagine but it’s also just one tiny snippet of the incredible story of her life.
For me, International Women’s Day is a day I use to reflect on my brave, fearless, amazing nanna’s journey and all of the other amazing women who have touched my life. I have had an incredible opportunity to be surrounded by so many wonderful women, each one bringing with them a strength and quality that I have both admired and sought to develop in myself.
Of course, I’ve been blessed with the world’s best mum (haven’t we all) who’s cheek and rebellion I can only wish to emulate, but there have been so many more also who really do deserve honourable mentions. From the strength and resilience of my both my Nanna’s, one whose story I’ve shared above, to the empathy and kindness of my beautiful auntie who left us too soon. There is the amazing balance and achievement of my cousin who could play the lead role in “I don’t know how she does it” to some of my amazing leaders, mentors and friends who have taught me integrity, drive, confidence and determination.
Every woman that has been part of my life has taught me something about the type of person I strive to be.
So why is it that our biggest fight comes not from men keeping us from achieving equality, but from other women who want to push us down and stop us being the best that we can be? The #Metoo campaign has highlighted some fundamental flaws in the shocking way our society treats women (and men), however, we still need to address the way we treat each other.
I’m talking about the women that block the success of other women or worse, flat out bully them for reasons I’m not going to speculate on. These are the women that fat/skinny shame or mum shame or any other kind of shame both public figures or even their own friends and family!
From a societal view, I no longer want to see hard working, successful women being referred to as “WAGS” and or as “wife or girlfriend of…” I’m excited that the young girls of today can turn on their TV and watch their favourite women sports stars. Ladies, we need to stand at the wings and cheer on hard!
In the workplace, let’s see more women in leadership positions mentoring and encouraging the women working for them. Let’s stop abusing power by blocking the progress of other women while we try and maintain the upper hand. Let’s stop using the word “bossy” to describe the strong, powerful women in our workplaces and let’s stop the nonsense around women not being able to have it all. What is it all, by the way?
Ladies, give your sisters a break! Better yet, give them your support! We each have the ability to do amazing things when we’ve got each other’s backs so be the kind of woman that inspires greatness in others. Now is the time to get behind the women in your life, help propel them to new heights and break that glass ceiling along the way.
So call your nanna’s, your mums and all of the other great women in your life. Today is a day to feel empowered by our brave new future and to give thanks to those that have paved the way before.
Happy International Women’s Day!