In the Western world women have more opportunities and choices about how they live their lives than ever before. They may still have to battle to get equal pay and status, but there is no question that huge strides have been made in the last hundred years or so.
In many parts of the world this is not the case. Women are having to fight, not just for gender equality, but also for basic human rights. Sexual violence, forced marriage, and exploitation are sadly still all too common. International Women's Day helps raise awareness of these issues and reminds us of the need to combat them. Many inspiring women around the world lead the way - from Malala Yousafzai, who is pioneering change in attitudes towards women, children, inequality, and education in Asian countries; to Diana Nammi, Kurdish women's rights campaigner and founder of IKWRO, which fights against forced marriage, honour killings, and FGM; to Sampat Pal Devi, founder of the Pink Sari Brigade, challenging violence against women in India.
Although women in the West are by comparison more fortunate and have on the whole so much more freedom, many are far from happy. Too often they are living lives that are less fulfilling than they might be. They may appear confident and successful, but often lack self-esteem, are anxious, or depressed. They feel their lives are out of balance, they have too much to do, with never enough time for themselves. They are often in a position of looking after others, as home-makers, bringing up children, caring for elderly parents, or minding grand-children, often whilst pursuing a career. They are not necessarily so good at caring for themselves. Often they are trying to please others and find it difficult to say 'no'. They make too many demands of themselves, endeavouring to be perfect. They tend to doubt their capabilities and feel they're not quite good enough. They are sometimes envious of others' seeming good fortune, comparing themselves needlessly. The status-conscious consumer culture, with its endless marketing hype and air-brushed celebrity-driven nonsense contributes to making women feel inadequate, and for young women in particular social media have brought new pressures in terms of image and male expectations.
It doesn't have to be this way for women who have the freedom living in the West gives them - a different way of dealing with things is possible. Women don't have to suffer needlessly. Even if it's not possible to control what happens in life, it's always possible to control what we think and feel. Women can choose to have a different perspective, reshaping the stories they've told themselves to give them what they most want out of life for the future.
In The Woman's Book of Joy I provide the tools to help women care more deeply for themselves and to face life's challenges with courage and optimism. I show them how to reclaim their real power, embrace a life of lightness and hope, and overcome their doubts so that they live lives that overflow with joy!