Isn’t it amazing there’s a day specially dedicated to women? 8 March marks International Women's Day, a day that, according to www.internationalwomensday.com, “... is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” It is also a day that calls for greater women's equality.
So what does 8 March mean for women in Singapore? Admittedly, we have it good here as women. The entry barriers to achieving the top ranks of a corporate hierarchy or attaining the highest academic achievement are so much lower than women in many other countries. No one will blink an eye when we see a female doctor or lawyer, take cues from a female CEO, or do a double-take when a female wears pants or drives a car – roles or acts not necessarily acceptable for women in countries like India, Dubai and more.
Thanks to trailblazing predecessors like Simone de Beauvoir, Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo and many more who have paved the way for us. Closer to home, we had role models such as artist Georgette Chan, war heroine Elizabeth Choy, medical social worker Daisy Vaithilingam, lawyer Kwa Geok Choo and many more who carved a name for themselves in a male-dominated society.
We are wife, mother, daughter, employee or entrepreneur all rolled into one. We often find ourselves doing the second shift the moment we shed our corporate selves at home. Outside and inside our homes, invisible barriers abound even in modern Singapore. Pay inequality, gender discrimination, getting the males at home to step up in their contribution towards household chores and childcare – Singaporean women have our fair share of issues to address. Not just that, the tendency for women to second-guess ourselves and have imposter syndrome, despite our achievements, is real.
On International Women's Day today, let us celebrate being a woman, becoming the best versions of ourselves and support other women while at it. Here are 5 ways you can do so.
Self-empowerment Step 1: Self-care is healthcare
The advice during flight take-offs about tending to ourselves before tending to others rings true. Fill yourself up, and you will have more to offer your loved ones. Never has the notion of self-care been more important than now. Some subscribe to self-care as burning candles, shopping, hair treatments, sleeping adequately, hiking, taking long baths, travelling, journalling – yes, it is all these and more.
Regarding self-care, there should not be a fixed mould as to what one should do to care for oneself. I have a friend who believes in regular meet-ups with friends to re-energise herself, no matter how busy she is with her kids and family. As a people person, she feeds herself off the energy of others and often feels more mentally balanced after she chats with friends. An introverted friend of mine, however, prefers to spend whatever free time alone, as me-time, indulging in books. For myself, it is all about journalling, hiking, taking good care of my skin, putting on makeup, watching musicals and visiting museums. So find the one to two things you can do to achieve that mind-body balance we all need nowadays.
Self-empowerment Step 2: Quit the Cinderella syndrome
Tjin Lee, founder and Managing Director of an agency, summarises it well in 2021's Valentine’s Day post on Instagram, “I buy my own jewellery and flowers. Sure it’s wonderful to receive gifts, but I learned in my 30s to stop wishing, waiting for people to second-guess my heart’s desires, and start doing things for myself❤️”. Check out her post below.
Indeed, it is time for women to shed the Cinderella syndrome, where Prince Charming rescues us from all our troubles or buy us that piece of jewellery we’ve been coveting. We say, go ahead and get it for ourselves. Why wait when we can afford it ourselves? There's nothing like buying ourselves a piece of fine jewellery, exquisite make-up range or luxury handbag to commemorate a milestone or to pat ourselves on the back for an achievement we have worked hard for. Go on, celebrate your milestones unabashedly.
And if shopping is what makes your heart sing, here are some merchants offering great deals for IWD.
Goldheart: Enjoy up to 68% off
Chow Sang Sang: Get up to 40% off
Net-a-porter: Save up to 25% off
Yoox: Get 30% off
Swarovski: Enjoy free shipping with any purchase.
Pandora: Personalise your accessories. Collect S$10 off S$100 purchase.
Farfetch: Overhaul your wardrobe with 20% off full-priced items.
The Outnet: Shop The Outnet's Biggest sale of up to 80% off.
Florasis: Exquisite make-up for self-pampering. Free shipping for orders over US$40.
Self-empowerment Step 3: Educate and empower yourself
Becoming the best versions of ourselves require hard work. One of the ways to do so is to empower ourselves with the right knowledge. These books are chockful of life lessons, advice and guidance whether you want to become more assertive, find yourself or hope to lend a hand to someone else. Let these true-life tales of women inspire you to become the woman you are meant to be.
A #1 New York Times bestseller, Dear Girl, is a love letter written for yourself or the special girl in your life. The book serves to remind the girl holding the book of how powerful, strong, and valuable she is. Beyond that, Dear Girl, encourages girls to always be themselves and love themselves for who they are, both inside and out.
As a woman, have you ever felt stifled by the shackles of society, on what a woman should or should not do? In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and stories, many from her own traditions, helping women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature. In this New York Times Bestseller, the author gives strength and permission to all women to own ourselves. Endorsed by Maya Angelou, this book "Shows the reader how glorious it is to be daring, to be caring, and to be women. Everyone who can, should read this book."
I was blown away when I watched this play over a decade ago. It was enlightening and empowering all at the same time, and I'm so glad to know that a book version exists. Way before the #metoo movement came into being, Ensler, a forerunner in women empowerment, gave voice to real women's deepest fantasies, fears, anger and pleasure. This special edition features six never-before-published monologues, a new foreword by National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson, a new introduction by the author, and a new afterword by One Billion Rising director Monique Wilson on the stage phenomenon’s global impact. I cannot recommend this witty, irreverent, and humourous work of art more.
Edited and compiled by Yahoo SEA's Editor-in-Chief Reta Lee, this book is a compilation of stories from 22 female journalists across Southeast Asia, sharing their own experiences regarding taboo topics such as gender imbalance and lack of diversity in their industries. This gem of a book is a must-have for those who wish to raise their awareness about gender inequality at work, see how women have come so far, as well as provide hope for greater female empowerment to come.
Also available on Amazon.
There's nothing more empowering than taking your own safety and happiness into your own hands. Former secret service agent Evy shares rare behind-the-scenes glimpses of her former life protecting the President of the United States. At the same time, she explores the psychology of human behaviour and teaches you the negotiation strategies used by the best negotiators. Learn how to heighten your instincts to protect yourself and your loved ones in sticky situations. A gem of a book to self-empowerment!
You have read Michelle Obama’s Becoming and The Light We Carry and wish to make something of yourself as she did. Now you can, with a little help from Michelle herself! This guided journal will show you the way to your self-discovery through 150 inspiring questions and quotes crafted by Michelle. Nothing beats having a mentor on your way to self-discovery.
Also available at The Book Depository.
Speaking out for women's empowerment, Melinda Gates shares the stories of women she has met during her travels. Backed by data, Melinda brings a sense of urgency towards issues requiring immediate attention, like extreme gender inequality. She boldly challenges the status quo in a bid to improve society. “Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.” Be inspired and join her as women lift one another up.
Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men [Paperback] by Caroline Criado Perez, S$19.75
In the woke society that we are living in today, we would know by now that countless gender inequalities are happening around the world. But to what extent? Author Caroline compiles an impressive variety of case studies and new research from across the globe, illustrating the hidden ways women are forgotten and their profound impact.
The Book of Gutsy Women: Favourite Stories of Courage and Resilience by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, S$46.56
Written by the mother-daughter duo Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, the book aims to show the women their favourite stories of gutsy women who have demonstrated courage against all odds. This book is perfect for girls and women craving inspiration in the midst of male dominance around the world.
Also available at Amazon.
A Woman Makes a Plan: Advice for a Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty, and Success [Paperback] by Maye Musk, S$24.99
A real-life story of how a 31-year-old single mother rose to become an international supermodel. At 71 now, Maye shares hard-earned wisdom on how one's life choices in every decade of your life can enjoy the payoff you may be looking for.
As part of an empowering series that offers inspiring messages to children and adults alike, this box set on three women from the world of art, Frida Kahlo, Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn, will make a wonderful gift to your daughter, niece or art-loving BFF.
Also available on Amazon.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban (Paperback) by Malala Yousafzai, S$18.17
This book requires no introduction. A memoir by the youngest Nobel Prize Winner, Malala, known as the girl who stood up to the Taliban, inspires young and old women. A must-read.
Self-empowerment Step 4: Support female designers or women-owned small businesses
It is time for women to lift one another. There are enough barriers to entry as it is for womenfolk trying to make a name for themselves in businesses. Celebrate your fabulous self together by supporting fellow women.
Porcelain: For all your skincare needs.
Boma Jewelry: For dainty and quirky earrings.
Hegen: For baby products and more.
HoneySpree: For all things honey related.
Lifestream: For supplements to fortify your general well-being.
Glittery Garden: For photography backdrops and DIY friendship bands.
Epitex: For all your home and bedding needs.
Keababies: For all mother and baby essentials.
Self-empowerment Step 5: Support a worthy cause
Homegrown label Charles & Keith continues to forge an inclusive brand. This International Women's Day (IWD), the brand is supporting UN Women’s Storytelling for Gender Equality, reinforcing its commitment towards women's empowerment. With the launch of the special-edition Alia Chain-Strap Crossbody Bag in purple – also the colour of choice for IWD and linked to historical efforts to achieve gender equality – 20% of all proceeds will go towards funding UN Women.
17-year-old TikToker Zoe Gabriel recently gained widespread support when she called out some netizens for ridiculing her reference to an S$80 Charles & Keith bag her father bought for her as 'luxury'. Zoe managed to stand up for herself and her father, reminding the keyboard warriors how much the S$80 bag meant to her, given her family's financial status. The brand subsequently followed up with a lunch and eventually offered the mature teenager the opportunity to spread her message at the brand's IWD campaign. At Charles & Keith's IWD campaign, Zoe calls for more compassion, reminding everyone that we are all beautiful in our own ways.
Self-empowerment Step 6: Surround yourself with a strong community on your socials
The double-edged sword social media has become. As Zoe Gabriel can attest, social media has become a great support system and a toxic place. Ahead of IWD, Lululemon held a Get into It with Lululemon panel discussion on how confidence, and self-empowerment, stem from well-being on your socials. Besides waxing lyrical about its durable materials that support the day-to-day social activities of men and women, the social community can also be a form of support.
Naomi Yeo, the first APAC ambassador featured in a global Lululemon campaign (for the Align collection in April), also shared how "Confidence is the ability to self-soothe when no one is around. If you can feel safe with your own thoughts, the rest will follow." Why rely on others when one can rely on oneself? Well-said.