Monday, 19 October 2015

Women in the World Summit proves ‘truly inspirational’

IGG Leaders, Catherine Swanwick from Dublin and Dara Daly from Cork, represented IGG at the Women in the World Summit in London from 7th-9th October and a three-day 'Be the Change' workshop organised by WAGGGS and the Dove Self-Esteem Project, which preceded it. Here Catherine writes about their experience:

Catherine Swanwick (left) and Dara Daly (right)
pictured with WAGGGS CEO Anita Tiessen
The Dove Self-Esteem Project is a social initiative that has been launched by Dove to help reduce the stigma that exists around body image in young girls and women, the end goal being that the reduction of this stigma and the increased positivity around body image will also affect women’s role in the world. Helping them to be more confident not just in how they look but how they behave in society. Giving them the confidence to speak up, to step out and to set an example for the generations that come behind them.

So where do I come in? This year Dove sponsored the Women In The World Summit - an event that hosts women from all over the world and hears their inspirational stories. Dove made the decision to take it one step further and invite young women from all over the world who are passionate about social change and have become role models to women in their generation and more. They turned their attention to The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, an organisation that prides itself on creating leaders for the future and providing a space for young women to discover themselves and learn life skills.

I was emailed about this incredible opportunity and decided to throw my name in the hat. I filled out the application form and, before I knew it, I was walking through Dublin airport with passport and ticket in hand.

The days that followed in London, not to sound cheesy, were truly inspirational. I arrived expecting to hear some incredible stories at the summit. What I did not expect was to be so inspired by my fellow delegates and to have the opportunity to speak to some of the speakers from the summit in person, topped off with some really intriguing workshops where I learnt about some of my faults and behaviours that I can now work on.

Our first two days were workshop based. Our “headquarters” as such was the Edelman offices just down the road from our hotel. We heard from the CEO of WAGGGS and the editor of Cosmo, we did a workshop with RADA and Twitter, Nina Nesbitt and many more. This wasn’t even the main event.

On Thursday night we attended the opening of the WITW summit. Even flicking through the programme, although I did not know or recognise many of the names just reading the short paragraph about each speaker, I knew we would be hearing some amazing stories from women of all races, cultures, backgrounds and plights.

I could go on talking all day recounting the stories of each of the women that I heard speak, some of whom I was lucky enough to also meet in person, but I won’t. What I will do is tell you what I learnt from all of it.

Firstly, we have a long way to go. What woman does not look in the mirror every day and see at least one part of her body she does not like? What women walks on a stage and doesn’t think about what people are going to think of her outfit? What woman meets a young girl and doesn’t comment first and foremost on her appearance? What woman sees a picture of herself and does not automatically find something to comment on regarding her appearance?

Catherine Swanwick (back row middle) and Dara Daly
(front right) pictured during the 'Be the Change' workshop
If you know this woman please introduce me! I would love to say that I am that woman. That I don’t let myself be held back by how I look or how I am perceived by others. That would be a lie. The truth is that I am making progress. I am starting to understand that I can look however I want to look and how to priorities what elements of myself give me value. I realise that my friends and my family do not value me for how I look but for my personality. I understand that my job does not value me for my fashion sense but for my work ethic and my skills. I believe that I no longer value myself for how I look but for my accumulation of skills, experiences, education, actions and personality. I don’t believe I will ever stop worrying about how I look completely but I intend to learn how to stop it from holding me back.

Now I want to help others. I want to be a role model for the girls in my Girl Guide Unit, for my sisters, for any future women who I may be lucky enough to work with or mentor in the future and even maybe one day for my own daughters.

My trip to London was a big step in the right direction.

Lastly, I want to share a piece written by Marianne Williamson that RADA had us read which for me sums up all I learnt over my few days in London.

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others.”

~ Catherine Swanwick blogs at

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