Aurora Magazine

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Inspiring Confusion on Women’s Day

Tyrone Tellis is baffled by the multiple themes online for International Women's Day.
Published 08 Mar, 2024 05:21pm

A couple of days ago (Tuesday, March 5th), I was curious as to what the theme would be for this year’s Women’s Day. So I did what everyone else did, I googled.

First, I came across a WHO site from Africa that referred to the theme ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’. As this was a WHO site, I went back to Google to make sure that this was not a regional or local theme. This time, Google gave me the search results and the website for International Women’s Day. Clicking through, I saw the theme for 2024 as ‘Inspire Inclusion’. That settles it, I thought. The next day on LinkedIn, I saw posts from local and foreign organisations where men and women adopted the signature pose for this year’s theme. I found it impressive that the theme came with action. It seemed like an effective way to get people to show their buy-in.

Imagine my surprise when later the same day, I came across a post on LinkedIn by Dipika Singh, who works as a learning facilitator. In the post, she explained that the theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’ was not the official theme; the actual theme set by the UN was ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’. She lamented the fact that the theme’s reach was being diluted because private websites had better SEO and marketing. She added that this was something that happens every year and that the theme from private organisations was less actionable as it carried a narrow scope. In contrast, the possibilities for the UN’s theme were more impactful – more on that later.

The confusion that arises, along with the opinions of these women, can teach us some lessons. Firstly, the crucial importance of investing in SEO. A similar case happened during the Beijing Olympics when a fake website appeared ahead of the official website that sold the tickets, and as a result, many people were cheated. Secondly, there is a critical need to invest. Simply coming up with a theme is not enough; a lot of time and effort has to be spent to disseminate it. And just being the UN is not enough, especially since people don’t see your theme or endorse it.

As the article written by Dr Helen O’Shea and Prof Kim Barker on the Edinburgh University Press website pondered: “I’m not sure having a single day to celebrate women is right but, regardless, there is a real risk that the hashtag-focused theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’, resplendent with a heart-shaped selfie pose suggestion ready for your social media channel of choice – yay! – crowds out the UN’s far more concrete, purposeful International Women’s Day theme of ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress.’”

This leads us to my third point. Gestures and hashtags are much more attractive in this day and age of social media saturation. Who knows whether, in the future, private organisations may further steal the day by having a TikTok campaign with a challenge?

Finally, to quote the adage frequently used in Pakistan to justify less than intelligent content: jo dikhte wohi bikthe hai (whatever is seen, sells). Coming back to Dipika Singh’s quote, she compares the flimsiness in substance of the theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’ with the UN’s ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’:

“And ONE unified message has a better chance of making a needle move towards that particular direction than tiny little varied actions that can fritter away into impactless movements. Let me explain. Look at the themes: ‘Invest in Her’ has so many interesting ‘ACTION’ connotations – Invest in women’s businesses, education, products, and sanitation. Focusing on ‘Invest in women: Accelerate Progress’ could have led to meaningful pledges and dialogues, panel discussions, and actual investments in women which were required as of yesterday. ‘Inspire Inclusion’ is vague and meaningless and inspires absolutely zero ‘ACTION’ agendas. And yet has hijacked all dialogues and events!”

When I first saw her post, I commented that I disagreed with her point that ‘Inspire Inclusion’ is not actionable. However, upon reflection, I have to admit she was right. This warns us about the danger of shiny things that seem amazing but, at the end of the day, are just fun and games and don’t lead to actual change. Yet, they gain traction because of hashtags and attractiveness.

The seer told Caesar to beware the Ides of March, and the UN and related organisations, it appears, need to beware the march of ideas. All that is hash-tagged is not gold.

Tyrone Tellis is Senior Manager, Corporate Sales and PR, Bogo.