What do a farmer, nun, entrepreneur, cleaner and politician have in common? A lot. This emerges in the project Resilient Women: Conversations on Mastering Life – a book and documentary celebrating women. Editors Stephanie Fabri, Andrew Azzopardi, Vincent Cassar and Kirsten Cutajar Miller talk about the lessons learnt from the 15 women featured in the project.
“Look at that woman – how does she manage it all? I wouldn’t handle it. What’s so special about me?” – These are thoughts common to many people, many women, who idolize the achievements of others without seeing their own.
They don’t see that raising a child while farming land is a big deal. Or what opening their door to strangers in need is admirable. Or that sacrificing time with loved ones to serve the public is commendable.
This is what the Resilient Women project seeks to unearth. The project is the brainchild of economist and academic Stephanie Fabri who was inspired when she became a mother.
Fabri was already aware of the hurdles faced by women who, despite progress, still face inequalities when compared to men. Becoming a mother made things even clearer.
“As I was going through a life transition myself, I was finding it extremely difficult to succeed in work and life simultaneously. Nothing and no one was giving concrete solutions and therefore I wore my mother, wife, academic and economist hats simultaneously and decided to study and dig deeper into this work-life dilemma,” she says.
The project – ‘Resilient women: Conversations on Mastering Life’ – includes a book and documentary revolving around interviews with 15 women from various walks of life: women from agriculture, politics, business, voluntary workers, and so on.
It’s not just about telling the stories. It’s about digging out the common threads – and the lessons – from their stories.
It’s time to speak up
“The key takeaway is that women need to speak up, ask for help, and admit that things are not always easy, not only for their own sake but to normalize these difficulties for other women,” says fellow economist Kirsten Cutajar Miller.
“We also need men to help without asking. This also leads me to the second message: self-confidence. Many women believe there is nothing grand about them, and yet are quick to compliment or idolize other women. Women need to find the energy within to empower themselves and chase their goals.”
While there are initiatives in place to support women’s participation in the labour market, gender gaps in pay and household chores remain, and research shows that the latter is engrained from childhood.
“We need to mature and grow, in our beliefs as a society… We need to raise the bar within our own families and raise sons and daughters who support and respect each other in the firm belief that they are equals,” she says.
For Professor Vincent Cassar the project serves as a reality check in a world where people are heavily driven by instant gratification.
A platform for discussion
“This project helped us, as editors, and hopefully our readers, to make us more aware of the importance of resilience, perseverance, and a deeper belief in one’s overall mission in life far from the noise and confusion we generally live with. The project brings back to the fore the need to reflect deeply on who we really are and what we really can accomplish. This project served as an eye opener and as an insightful experience into our real calling – to serve others and to achieve successes that benefit those around us thus making us richer internally,” he says.
The narratives celebrate the success of ordinary women. In this case the role models are ordinary women with an extraordinary will to be successful in truly making a more lasting social impact, Cassar says adding that by sharing their stories the women are creating a platform for further discussions and debates.
“The stories of these women navigate around the complex social constructs imposed on them and it is not easy to get on with life when challenges are thrown at you,” says Associate Professor Andrew Azzopardi.
“Nonetheless these women are an inspiration to all those involved in this project. We hope that as the readers navigate around these complex experiences and, above all, we find a piece of ourselves… These women give us an opportunity to think about ourselves and how the nuances give life to society but also put value in sharing our lives. We need strong public policy. We need good education. We need more critical thinking…We need to re-think our rituals, be together, create an ongoing conversation and above all keep listening to the stories of the insiders,” he says.
Resilient Women – Conversations on Mastering Life, published by Klabb Kotba Maltin, will be launched on November 18. The documentary will be aired on TVM. Proceeds will go to the Good Shepherd Sisters – Dar Merhba Bik Foundation that offers support to victims of gender-based and domestic violence.