Women’s Month – a month of Gold

Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO

yolanf@ewt.org.za What better way to kick off Women’s Month in South Africa than with outstanding performances of our lady Olympians Tatjana Schoenmaker (swimming) and Bianca Buitendag (surfing), who racked up the first South African medals of the Games, with Tatjana setting a new world record! The Olympics provide a unique and magical platform where the world comes together to recognise and celebrate extraordinary feats of human brilliance, underpinned by unfathomable dedication, commitment, hard work, and unwavering vision. And in a world shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympic Games also symbolise hope, triumph, and perseverance for millions of people around the globe. To add to the inspiration offered by any athlete on the start line is the number of athletes this year that are mothers, with Canadian basketball player Kim Boucher even having her three months old infant with her at the Games whom she is still breastfeeding. With 49% of the athletes in this year’s Games being women, the Tokyo Olympics claims to be the most gender-balanced Games of all times, and features nine more mixed events than at Rio 2016, raising the overall number to 18. Progress of gender equity and the rights of women in many respects.

Back home, South Africa has a very long way to go before women can not only feel equal to men in our society (in terms of pay, equity in the workplace, a voice in the media, and more) but can feel safe and free, in our country and our homes. We wish that days and months dedicated to empowering women and raising the profile of the challenges they face would not be necessary but, given that they are, that they will result in immediate, measurable, and impactful change, not just rhetoric clever campaigns. The EWT is a gender-balanced organisation with a ratio of 50:50 men to women and is one of the few in our sector that is female lead. We believe firmly in the role that women play in building not only a resilient, nurturing and compassionate society, but we also embrace and hold dear the value of the female of the species in bringing all these qualities and more to the EWT and conservation in general. The EWT’s ladies are mothers, academics, scientists, field workers, caregivers, teachers, wives, daughters, and leaders, often all in one. Importantly, we are also blessed to work with men who give high regard to the role of the ladies in their personal and professional lives and who are fundamental to creating a society that is empowering and respectful of women.

This Women’s Month, I wish that all the ladies in the EWT know how valued they are, how much they contribute, and how much impact they have on conservation, the EWT, their families, and society. It is equally my wish that all the men in the EWT also know how important they are, how invaluable is their contribution and how irreplaceable their roles as fathers, brothers, colleagues, and friends are. From all at the EWT, may you spend this Women’s month celebrating each and every woman in your life, and the many good men too, and make the changes that are necessary for a long lasting impact to come from this August that will empower and keep safe ALL the ladies in our country. May we all work this month and every month to create an equitable, safe, just and celebratory society of the gold that exists in all of us.