sUPPORT us IN OUR MISSION TO eMPOWER WOMEN gLOBALLY
Beautiful and amazing things can happen when we just take a leap of faith in ourselves. This is the acknowledgment that we have kept returning to during our Hear My Voice- Women’s Network journey over the past two years.
At its very foundation, Hear My Voice- Women’s Network has been a journey about two friends, from different sides of the world who share similar ethics and who are empathetic to the plight of women, especially young women, whose voices are universally unheard. Unheard because society believes their voices are not worth listening to. Unheard because they are expected to fulfil a particular role. Unheard because they face barriers daily. This silence is due to systematic gender inequality and discrimination that continues to exist across borders. But women’s voices, now more than ever as the world continues to overcome the ongoing pandemic, need to be heard, not just present, in decisioning-making for their communities.
Lauren Donnison, a women’s rights activist, and educator, works to support women’s voice and agency by providing them with access to knowledge, resources, and skills, to contribute positively to their communities and countries, and support a transformed world. Evelyn Palach is a Canadian lawyer seeking to support gender equality through women’s access to justice initiatives. Through her work, Evelyn recognizes the necessity of collaborative effort to effectively address cross-cutting and systemic issues facing women, in a way that is reflective of the actual female experience.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, both of us identified the need for an online platform that prioritized inclusion and allowed for individuals to share their knowledge and work together for a better world. With a combined passion to make change and build a network of empowered women to coordinate collective action in pursuit of gender equality, Lauren and Evelyn established the Hear My Voice- Women’s Network in April 2020.
Hear My Voice- Women’s Network is a platform that brings women, from all over the globe, together to discuss current issues that are important to them and their community. Our platform creates a safe place for women to share their ideas and opinions, and an outlet for their questions. We understand that women benefit from being in women only spaces, they feel more comfortable to express themselves and ideas, without fear of judgement. We offer women the opportunity to join online programs and networking events, to enhance their public speaking skills and ignite their passion to create positive changes in their communities. Our Network and initiative connect women globally and has supported women to feel less alone by helping them identify that the problems and struggles they face as women are not ones they face alone, but ones women face globally. Our mission is to contribute to a world where diverse women’s voices, perspectives, and leadership is supported and amplified. One of the ways we work towards this mission is by integrating empowerment throughout our activities.
What does empowerment mean to you? This is a question we have asked hundreds of women and continue to reflect on ourselves. We have found that although empowerment can mean so many different things to so many different women, it fundamentally is about providing others with the steppingstones to make their own choices, build their own path, and chase opportunities they want without barriers. These barriers can be systemic and pervasive, and take many forms, including political, economic and social inequalities. The gendered impacts of COVID-19 have highlighted these types of deep inequalities faced by women around the world. Hear My Voice- Women’s Network seeks to empower women to alleviate these barriers; specifically, in pursuing empowerment, we strive to facilitate a supportive network that works together to tear down the barriers inhibiting women’s empowerment. Women need to contribute to, and lead, decision-making to ensure policies and programs are informed by and are responsive to the populations they serve.
The Hear My Voice- Women’s Network Women’s Online Empowerment Program aims to do this by increasing women’s knowledge about social justice and women’s rights, to empower women to use their voices in their community to speak out for their rights and the rights of other women, and to create a network of like-minded women that can support, learn and share with each other. The program provides women with the skills and knowledge to try to find their own solutions to social justice issues in their communities. As of May 2022, we have conducted programs for over 180 women from 40 countries. But don’t just take our word for it, here is some of the feedback our graduates shared.
“I was able to get more knowledge on Gender and Social Justice issues. I got to understand the different cultures, societies in different countries and how they contribute to various discrimination for women and girls. I also learnt different perspectives of people in achieving Gender Equality.”
“I knew most matters pertaining to women empowerment on an average level and generally just the basics. Now I'm very empowered with a deep understanding of matters affecting women from equality to social justice and many more. The best thing about it all is that from the diverse experiences I heard from my classmates, it surely gave me a wholesome perspective of these matters.”
“In terms of skills, the main one I have worked on is my listening skills in that I have been able to listen to constructive criticisms without feeling the negative repercussions of self-blaming and self-doubt on my intelligence and/or worth. This is due to the safe space created and feeling the representation and solidarity (amongst our differences) which allowed me to feel comfortable receiving constructive criticisms by my peers and even feel empowered because I have actually learned from said criticisms without feeling less credible. This experience for me has immensely impacted my life in a positive way and I will never forget it. “
At the same time, Hear My Voice- Women’s Network actively works to fight against the gender stereotypes that often form the basis for discriminatory barriers facing women when accessing opportunities. We fight against gender stereotypes through our Woman of the Week initiative. Women of the Week aims to empower and inspire others by showcasing the amazing work of women across the world. In May we focused on Women in STEM, an industry that is predominantly male. This feature also emphasises the importance of women’s voice in the sectors that they work.
Our journey so far has been one of trials, errors and great success. It has been challenging in many ways—with limited human resources, across multiple time zones, and in the face of unexpected internet connection issues—and has been a lot more work than we ever could have imagined. But these challenges are easily outweighed by the incredible and inspiring feedback we get from our network, and the emails about how our participants now have the courage to do something for themselves or their community. We also must acknowledge that to be able to listen and learn from these women, to get a global understanding of the issues they face and discuss together ways to overcome or stand in solidarity against these issues, is an absolute honour and a privilege. Every month we see total strangers from across the world bond on Zoom despite the distance and end our Women’s Empowerment Program with women they now call sisters. This makes all the hard work and late nights worth it, without question.
We believe that we all are capable of making beautiful and amazing things happen! If you are thinking of starting an initiative, or following your passion in a new direction, our advice would be to start small as each small action takes you closer to your goal. Be willing to change and adapt if things do not go as planned. Do not be afraid to reach out to others within or outside your network to ask for support (We confess that LinkedIn stalking is the most effective way we made new and amazing connections). Most importantly, have faith in yourself. You are powerful.