March is finally here, and so our countdown to International Women's Day (on March 8th) begins. Manjerica is a brand that celebrates women and their many, varied lives and facets, which is why this year, we've decided to interview eight inspiring women as a way to honor this important date.
Doctor and Teresa's mother, from Azores, Portugal
What I've always tried to pass on to my daughters is that we should always face life with joy, honesty, without being too naive but having tolerance for each other, trying to soften through dialogue all the situations that we face in life.
To think there are others who need us and to give them a hand. In general, I think women have a major part into society: their ability to solve conflicts in a sensitive way, without violence and agressive manners, fighting for peace and balance in the world.
Grandmother of Manjerica's Co-founder Carlos Elavai, from Portugal
Ilike to be honest, and at 94 years old, I can say that I never celebrated Women's Day. I come from a small village on the north of Portugal, living in the rural countryside. The opportunities for women at that time were scarce and helping with household chores was the main work. 60 years ago, feminist movements were taking place in England, but in Portugal there was a dictatorship, so information and new ideas were slow to reach us.
I was largely responsible for raising my children, providing meals for the family and taking care of the house. But I was also the seamstress of the village, a work I truly enjoyed! I am proud of the path I have taken and indeed as I got older the barriers to my independence reduced. When my family needed it, I assumed my role as provider and managed the olive plantations and grape harvests on our properties.
Being a woman is one of the most important roles in society. A lot has changed from 60 years until today, there is a big difference in the concept of being a woman for my granddaughter and for me. Fortunately I witnessed our social values evolving in the right direction.
Stylist & Communication Designer, from Portugal
Ithink that in Fashion, and even when I worked as a Designer before, I really didn't personally feel, as well as my network contacts, the gender inequality in Portugal.
So I think a lot hasn't changed in my perception since the year I was born. We all do a little bit of everything (even chores like cleaning the lunch dishes and wiping the floor, if necessary).
And as for salaries, each one receives according to their position and not gender or sexual orientation. Perhaps this happens in Fashion not only in Portugal but in general. However, I see no differences between us in terms of treatment and salary.
Manjerica Bag's Artisan, from Portugal
Alot has changed for small towns in Portugal, women had a fundamental role to take care of the house and children, and besides that it was very difficult to achieve anything else.
Today we see that there are more opportunities for women: women can study, start their own businesses and also take care of their homes and children in partnership with their husbands.
In my case, I am very happy to be able to have my work and my independent source of income, especially doing something I'm so proud of: making bags for Manjerica and the art of building something with my hands.
Every woman should be proud of her role in society, as our work, be it in the company or at home, is what enables a happier life in society.
Financial investor, from Portugal and living in the UK
Iam still on maternity leave, so I can only talk about leaving work and being a new mom rather than of the challenges as you return back, which I believe are likely to be the largest ones. I work in a demanding and predominantly male industry which I think exacerbates such struggles as you don’t often have substantial roles or a guidebook to base yourself upon.
Firstly, primary caretaker responsibilities almost always fall upon the mother rather than the father, especially in the earlier months and if you are breastfeeding, so there is an inherent stigma associated to women. Secondly, when you chose to take a maternity leave, you put your career on hold. However, the industry doesn’t wait for you so you often face a return where your projects or your clients may have been handed over to other people who might be less willing to hand it back (let’s not even mention the daunting mailbox of unread emails!). Finally, considering myself an accomplished woman with an exciting job, facing a routine of baby-focused days can sometimes be demoralizing (however rewarding it is to see your baby grow and develop).
Regarding solutions, I don’t quite have them and I am still figuring out as I go along. Nevertheless, I think having a hands-on supporting partner is key, as well as the ability to work from home in the evenings or certain days and more similar leaves for mothers and fathers.
I think a lot still needs to be done but I take hope in the pandemic showing us that working from home is not only possible but can be as or more productive. I also have high hopes in the new generation of men, such as my husband, who are keen on being an active part of their children’s lives. True change can only happen if men also do their part in changing the mindset!
Business owner, from the Netherlands
As a mom to both a boy and a girl, gender equality is important to me. I especially want my daughter to feel like her chances in life are equal to her brother’s. A hot topic amongst my kids (3 and 5) are sports and whether the sport is a boy or girl sport (same goes for toys). When my son stated that ballet was only for girls, I showed him videos of male ballet dancers and when soccer is crowned a true boy sport, I show them a game of the national women’s soccer team. I teach them that whatever boys do, girls can do too and of course the other way around.
In addition to sports, we also discuss the fact that some boys are more feminine and that some girls can have more masculine traits and/or interests. And that it's never okay to make fun of others for being who they are and what they like. In doing so we hope our children will always dare to be their true selves and always treat others with the same respect.
Strategy manager, from Portugal
Being a woman means belonging to a society where each one of us is trying to forge our own path, without biological or social limitations, but treated as equals and with access to the same opportunities. Being a man or a woman shouldn’t make any difference.
Being a woman doesn’t define me, but as an individual, it means having a strong sense of self-awareness and finding the balance between who I am and who I want to be: empathetic and always present in the lives of those I love, constantly growing as a person and a professional, with the confidence that, with my strong circle and all the knowledge I’ve acquired, I can overcome any obstacles in my path.
And through finding my place in the world, contributing in a way that might help others, men or women, do the same as well.
Social worker, from Portugal
International Women's Day was born out of that fight, but that doesn't mean women and men lived under the same rights and duties from that moment forward. So it's our duty to look at the big discrepancies but mostly at the apparently small and subtle ones, which is where most of the problem lies.
Let's start with education... Let's teach our children to respect each other in the same way, and to understand the need to be respected. That's where the future is.
Let's be there for each other. Who better than women to support other women, to be there in each other's fights. It didn't happen to me today, but it could tomorrow, right? Create groups of mutual support, trust, that allow us to intervene when we see something wrong happen to someone we know.
Let's not perpetuate the existence, and much less participate, in those women-focused jokes male friends or colleagues sometimes make in front of us. You are one of the women they're joking about, never forget that.
And let's make sure we reflect on why women from different backgrounds have less access to certain kinds of jobs and opportunities. And why do our voices have a lesser impact than those of men? Why are certain job fields still nearly forbidden to us? Why is there a "natural" supremacy of man over woman? All of this needs to be talked about, with parents, friends, colleagues... It's imperative to make people reflect.