Have you ever wondered why we have a Women’s Day, but no Men’s? Turns out we do, it just isn’t so universally celebrated! Taking place on November 19, Men’s Day is an occasion to focus on ‘the promotion of basic humanitarian values’ – an emphasis which so closely parallels that of Women’s Day we’re questioning why we don’t just have a People’s Day and be done with it!
Anyway, it’s March 8 that’s our focus here: the official Women’s Day which has existed since the early 1900s and is a celebrated public holiday in nearly 30 countries (including Uzbekistan, Zambia, and China – where, actually, it’s only the women who get the day off!). Here in Cyprus it’s not a holiday per se, but we do tend take it as an opportunity to appreciate our ladies; meanwhile, in Italy, women receive yellow mimosas, in Romania the day is seen as an opportunity to commemorate mothers and grandmothers and, in England, it’s the WAW awards that count…
Women Appreciating Women is a relatively new initiative, the brainchild of AUGP Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr Pauline Long. Described as “a global ground-breaking movement by women for women to appreciate and support each other in business, projects and general well-being”, this year’s iteration sees two remarkable locals among the winners. In recognition of their contribution and services to other women, Catherine Beger and Magda Zenon will be honoured at the WAW Awards and Gala in London on March 8, and are also to be included in the 2019 WAW 100 Most Inspirational Women book. Both women have been nominated by mentor and educator Viola Edward De Glanville, and the double win has come as a great surprise to both!
“I couldn’t believe it, as I was also announced as finalist for UK Mentor of the Year Award around the same time; suddenly the International skies were raining awards!” enthuses theatre storyteller and maker Catherine Beger. “I think to be told, at the age of 45, that you are one of 100 inspirational women around the world is just amazing!” she smiles. “For someone who works alone a lot, or in the company of young people, it felt like a hand had reached out and patted me on the back and given me a huge hug. I still can’t quite believe it!”
Having built the Little Muse Theatre in Limassol from scratch in just a few short years, Catherine is one of the island’s most inspirational, hard-working women. Such is her talent and drive, that 2018 saw her invited to tour China with one of her singular plays, in 2017 she received the CWBA award for Cyprus Business Woman of the Year, and she’s even a finalist in the National UK Mentor of the Year! But the WAW award holds a special place in her heart…
“Being part of something which offers support and inclusivity makes you feel connected and respected,” says Catherine who, as a self-employed single mum in the performing arts is all too familiar with “the guilt which comes with juggling career and motherhood. There’s also the constant anxiety of self-employment: if I’m ill, I don’t earn; come school holidays I don’t earn. You’re also constantly making sacrifices” – Catherine doesn’t go out or drive – “and this can be isolating. But then all women are in the same boat to some degree: I’ve seen many women in my age bracket who have given a good part of their lives to major companies, who are constantly assessed and, despite consistently proving their worth, live in constant fear of replacement. This is why, I think, platforms such as WAW are so brilliant – they enable people from all walks of life to share time together, and pass on the message that we are here to support and inspire.”
Although her work mainly involves young people, Catherine has also helped any number of adults: “I have to say that as a self-employed single mum I’ve been able to advise many women who have sought my help and support when learning to rebuild their lives after divorce; at such a time female support is a lifeline. But women should never,” she adds, “be afraid of wanting it all! Hold the judgement, celebrate what you are good at, and be kind to others regardless of gender. In fact, this WAW award,” she concludes, “celebrates a way of life that we should be living every day: that kind word, helping hand, or even just a smile all help build connections!”
Fellow winner Magda Zenon, a women’s peace and security activist and broadcaster, is of the same opinion. “I’m a bit like Nokia,” she laughs, “I’m always connecting people! I always share; always try to include new women in activities or events I am invited to; I am often the go-to person when someone – either local or from abroad – needs a list of whom to invite or include, and I always ensure there are new young names on the list.”
Also a single parent, Magda is in her early 60s and works full-time at a law office, runs her own radio show, and is on the board of the Cyprus Women’s Lobby. And, as part of the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network, she’s not only spoken at the UN’s Economic and Social Council, but has also been invited to celebrate Women’s Day 2019 with tea at Buckingham Palace!
“Honoured and humbled” by her WAW awards, no-nonsense Magda suggests the biggest obstacles facing women in Cyprus today are “the cultural stereotypes and patriarchy. Women generally have more responsibilities to balance than men: more is expected of them, they usually have more insecurities and are harsher on themselves,” she says. But Magda acknowledges that women also have an incredible ability to help one another. “There’s no greater strength than knowing someone has your back or is there to hear your story, or understands. Reach out,” she advises, “no woman is alone in her challenges and struggles…”
For more information on the WAW Awards, visit the Facebook page ‘Women Appreciating Women’