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March 7, 2012 by Speakers' Spotlight

Dear International Women’s Day – It’s Time for a Makeover

Guest blog from Barb Stegemann

Barbara Stegemann’s entrepreneurial vision was formed after her best friend was severely wounded in Afghanistan. Understanding that supporting Afghanistan’s economy was a key way to help build stability for its people, Barbara created The 7 Virtues Beauty Inc., a company that sources organic oils from Afghanistan, Haiti, and other countries experiencing turmoil, to encourage change and reverse issues of war and poverty. Although Barbara addresses complex global issues, she uses humour to explain in simple terms how individuals can effect change both at home and worlds away. Barbara was a nominee for Chatelaine’s Women of the Year 2011 entrepreneur award and recently received the”Women Innovators” Award from the US State Department.

Sandwiched plainly between Oscar tweets on red carpet glamour and Toronto’s Fashion week, there is this day that deserves thunderous applause and mass twitter love by Canadian Women – It’s International Women’s Day.  When you are competing with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the runway, this day that celebrates our political, economic and social triumphs is way overdue for a makeover. March 8th it’s time to express your true beauty.

Less than one hundred years ago women were not allowed to vote and weren’t considered citizens….(insert record scratch here). Many girls of today say they can’t connect with this day because they were born with these rights in North America.

The girls of today have new and very real concerns that are domestic and international in scope and they want to express it their way. This is a message Canada’s Minister responsible for the Status of Women shared with me at the first ever APEC Women and the Economy summit last fall and she listened to those young women far and wide and together they took action to make possible the  very first International Day of the Girl Child which will be held on October 11, 2012. (Insert applause!)

Minister Ambrose has been a huge champion of women and girls across Canada.  She has been steadfast in the Government of Canada’s commitment to end violence committed in the “name of honour” against women and girls. This is the same Minister who, this Fall, launched a call for proposals for projects to address violence against women and girls on university and college campuses. This week, during International Women’s week, she announced the results of a call for proposals that addressed issues of violence and economic security affecting women and girls living in rural and remote communities across Canada. Fitting for the theme of international women’s week which is “Strong Women, Strong Canada – Women in Rural, Remote and Northern Communities – Key to Canada’s Economic Prosperity”.

And yes, she is a beautiful, smart and successful women who is also cool to boot!

So back to March 8th. I choose Michelangelo to give our day a makeover. One of the world’s greatest artists and philosophers could teach Karl Lagerfield a lesson or two. Michelangelo taught of a beauty message that could end wife battery, a problem that costs us over $6 billion a year. He would share a mighty message that would ensure we did not lose our young women to eating disorders, bullying or prostitution.  His power message for our makeover is, “Beauty is expression over form”. And “expression” is your power and your dignity. Never hand it over and never take it from another, and that is your true beauty. While “form” is dated by eras, and is not our true beauty. If we believed our beauty was simply form, then if you were born in the twiggy era, you would have to be skinny to be considered beautiful. However, if you were born during the renaissance, you would need to be voluptuous to be considered the beauty of the day.

Michelangelo said beauty is expression over form. Expression is timeless, classic and never changes. If Michelangelo were here today he would love Adele’s voice for the power of expression in it. Her form would not even be on his radar. Expression is your power and your dignity. If we taught our girls and ourselves as women and came to believe through the daily practice of living this philosophy that your power and your dignity is your true beauty, never hand it over and never strip another of theirs, even if you don’t agree, then we would all get to a good place.

Today Canada has three female premiers and the world has 19 female presidents and Prime Ministers. We live in a world that is seeing women in leadership breaking records. It’s a world of firsts for women. In 2009, Icelandic Voters chose Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir as their Prime Minister after the economic crisis of 2008. Her government passed same sex legislation and she became the World’s first lesbian world leader. And Mary McAleese was the first female president to directly succeed another female president. And Meryl Streep won a best actress Oscar for Iron Lady!

Alas, it remains an illogical world we live in. Women own the voting power at 52%. If we held hands and voted in the same direction, entire governments would rise and fall at our collective voting power. Yet we still only have 20% representation in government by women. We own the buying power. By the year 2020 two thirds of the world’s buying power will be in the hands of women. Yet we still have issues of war and poverty in the world. This International Women’s Day, let’s encourage women to create new ways to harness our untapped voting and buying power to leave a more beautiful world than we found. Beauty is your power and your dignity March 8th.


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