Deserving more than a cupcake

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Hey, do you remember a couple of weeks ago when it was International Women’s Day and women got a cupcake (probably baked by a woman) and a breakfast (probably organised by a woman) and then we all agreed that gender equality didn’t need to be spoken about for another year?

Look, I know I sound cynical. But that’s only because I am. Every year at Diabetogenic, I write a post celebrating the incredible women working in diabetes. Mostly I centre diabetes advocates who are generally donating their time – and emotional labour – to power advocacy efforts and make change. And if you look back at the history of the DOC, you will see that the majority of the work has been by women in the community. (Don’t @ me with your ‘But I’m a bloke and I’ve done this’ commentary. It’s not the time for #NotAllMen.)

This year, I started to write something, and then stopped, and started again. And then stopped. Anyone who is a frequent visitor to this site or follows any aspects of my personal advocacy knows that I celebrate the incredible work done by grassroots and community advocates (many/most of whom are women) throughout the year and I didn’t want to buy into the ‘It’s-IWD-here-are-the-womens-now-it’s-back-to-the-misogyny-we-usually-deal-with’ crap that seems to be the aftermath of each and every IWD. 

So, I’m using today – this random day – to give a shout out to some of the great things going on that you may have seen, or you may have missed. These things are powered by women who, in most cases, are doing this as extra work on the side of their day jobs, and everything going on in their personal lives. But it’s undeniable that it’s this sort of stuff that is going on all the time, usually flying under the radar, but it’s making a difference to so many folks in the diabetes world.  

And so…

There is some remarkable work out of India where the Blue Circle Foundation continues to make a mark in diabetes advocacy. On IWD, a team of women from the Foundation conducted an awareness program for 200 women inmates in Yerwada Jail in Pune, India. This is part of their ongoing Project Gaia which creates safe spaces for women with diabetes. Snehal Nandagawli is just one of the women involved in this work. You can hear more from her at this week’s #dedoc° #docday°.

From the UK, Mel Stephenson-Gray has been a brilliant force in the diabetes community for a number of years. She recently launched a fabulous new Insta page celebrating and empowering women with diabetes. It’s called Diabetes Women’s Health Club and the information she’s been sharing (accompanied by gorgeous graphics) is brilliant. I loved the profiles of some of women who were groundbreaking pioneers in diabetes research. Go give the page a follow now!

Dawn Adams hasn’t managed to convince me that she is only one person because the sheer volume of the work she is doing is immense and she’s bloody everywhere. Dawn continues to blaze trails in her research and writings about diabetes and menopause (follow @MenopauseMither on Twitter for great information and support), has been featured in a number of Diabetes UK publications, spoke at the recent #dedoc° symposium at ATTD, and continues to be a daily support and mentor to people across the global diabetes community. I’ve barely scratched the surface with this list. Someone please send Dawn a coffee and cinnamon bun so she can sit down for 30 seconds and recharge her batteries!

Another woman who is a human powerhouse and obviously works 23 hours a day (lazily, she sleeps for an hour) is Jazz Sethi whose work with the Diabesties Foundation continues to multiply exponentially.  She’s also a brilliant speaker and gave an emotional talk at ATTD last month. Check out just some of what she is doing here (and stay tuned for something super exciting that we’ve been working on together!)

Also at the recent ATTD #dedoc° symposium, Hamidah Nabakka from the Sonia Nabeta Foundation captivated the packed-to-capacity room, sharing stories of children and young people living with diabetes in Africa. This was held on the first day of ATTD and for the rest of the week, I had people coming up to me and saying that it was their highlight of the whole conference. 

I’m getting to this a little late because it was started last year, but Niki Breslin started a brilliant Insta page to build community called ‘My Type of Family’ for anyone with diabetes who is planning and trying to conceive, pregnant, recently had a baby and parenting. There’s lots of great information and encouragement for the community with this page and definitely worth a follow!

I was so excited to see some artwork by Miss Diabetes from New Zealand make it across the ditch Melbourne in an IWD street art exhibition. Her comic ‘Women and Diabetes’ was on show in our city’s iconic Hosier Lane! Miss Diabetes’ diabetes advocacy is super well-known in the community thanks to her tireless efforts supporting Insulin4All efforts and with work she’s done with the WHO diabetes team. You can see the artwork here.

Anita Sabidi in Indonesia continues to drive and build community with her advocacy work that shine very bright lights on issues such as emotional wellbeing and mental health, and women’s health. Anita is a regular speaker about these important topics, and also leads a number of community initiatives supporting women with diabetes in Indonesia. She’s also speaking at #docday° this week.  

Dana Lewis never ceases to amaze. Last week she ran 100kms in a day, but unbelievably, it’s not her physical feats that make her name so well known in the diabetes world. It is, of course, her work in open source AID. Last month she gave two presentations at the Open Diabetes Closing Conference, and she has an upcoming session at the ADA Scientific Sessions in San Diego. On top of that, she continues to publish regularly and is a force for nothing but good! 

Ashley Ng from Australia has been documenting life with two gorgeous little girls on her blog, opening up about some of the more difficult aspects of parenting while living with diabetes. I love Ash’s candidness and honesty and am always grateful for her ability to be so raw, but also hopeful. Read and subscribe to her blog here.

These women are just a few of the many who continue to make our community tick and flourish. There work is not only meaningful on 8 March: it’s making a difference every, single day. The very idea that women and their achievements get just one day of real celebration (albeit while battling the calls of ‘where’s International Men’s Day?’) is in equal parts frustrating and insulting. I celebrate the incredible work that women spearhead all the time because I know that alongside that work, they are dealing with patriarchal attitudes that make their successes all the more remarkable. That deserves far more than a cupcake!

Postscript

The UN theme for the day was DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, not the saccharine sweet ‘EmbraceEquity which means absolutely nothing and was created by some corporate machine that does nothing to advance equality in any way. So, if you spent IWD posting selfies of you hugging yourself, that’s great, but what did that really mean when it comes to advancing gender equality?

If you haven’t had a look at the website from the UN, it’s definitely worth it, even if it’s just to see the high-level details, one of which explains that online gender-based violence silences women and discourages their public participation. It may be odd to think this is a thing in the diabetes community when so much of what you see comes from women, but actually, it’s real. Harassment is a concern for many women, and I know of many women who have stopped sharing or locked down their accounts (permanently or temporarily), or deleted them completely, due to this harassment. I’m one of those women. This is something to be mindful of every day – not just a single day in March. 





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