Today is International Women's Day. The day to celebrate the achievements of all women, whatever they may be.
It is a day that resonates with me. As a woman who has always worked in a male dominated industry, I have seen many of my female colleagues, peers and friends be passed over for recognition (be that a pay rise or promotion) or, worse still, managed out. The recent wave caused by strong women standing up and saying "no more" is inspiring and long may it continue. But it has also got me thinking about strength and the definition of strong.
When you ask a person to describe a "strong woman", they might tell you a story about a person they know who climbed to the top of her career ladder or a woman who stands up for what she believes in. They might describe a woman who selflessly puts the needs of others before her own in either her professional or personal life. But, to me, there are other, equally inspiring examples of strength.
I have watched someone close to me face and come to terms with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Many people joke about being OCD but I suspect less (myself included) really understand this condition. Intrusive thoughts followed by compulsions and repeated behaviours to alleviate the stress caused by the intrusive thoughts have been part of this person's life since she was a teenager. Breaking that cycle has been a long journey for her but with the help of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) she is in a good place. She recognised that she needed help and she sought it.
And then there is my sister Sarah. Sarah has suffered the unexplained loss of a child six times. It is estimated that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, with 85% of those happening in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. I cannot begin to imagine the physical and mental pain that Sarah has been through caused by losing six babies after experiencing the joy of finding herself pregnant. She experienced dark times as she dealt with the inevitable grief that followed. At the time of writing Sarah is nearly 24 weeks pregnant and we can’t wait, good fortune willing, to meet our beautiful niece or nephew.
Neither of these women would describe themselves as strong but to me they are. Identifying and addressing the things that feed your vulnerability takes strength of will and character. So this year, we are celebrating International Women’s Day by launching our "Strong" mug to celebrate strength in whatever form it takes. The generously sized, bone china mugs are made in a pottery run by two friends in Staffordshire here in the United Kingdom and are microwave and dishwasher safe.
More importantly £5 from the sale of each mug will be donated to charity. The charity donations will be split equally between Mind and the Miscarriage Association, charities that do amazing work with two matters that are hugely underfunded.
So let's raise a mug of tea or coffee to all of the strong women we know. Buy one for a friend or loved one to let them know that they ARE strong even if they don’t think they are. Or buy one for yourself to give you a daily reminder of your strength.