In celebration of International day of Rural Women this week, we have two guest bloggers who we will be featuring in honour of their work supprting rural women all over the world.
We asked Lauren Shuttleworth, founder and director of Words With Heart to tell us about her heart for rural women and her quest to support them…
Can you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?
I’m Lauren Shuttleworth and I’m the Founder of Words With Heart – an eco-friendly stationery and printery social enterprise that funds women’s and girls’ education projects in the developing world. We sell a range of products including notebooks and journals, and more recently with the launch of our printery, custom business cards, greeting cards, invitations and more. Every product we sell funds a specific number of education days for women and girls. We partner with charities doing incredible work in this area, and currently fund projects in Sierra Leone and Cambodia.
Can you share with us about your experiences with rural women around the world?
I have had some experiences with rural women during my time volunteering in remote areas of Kenya and Thailand, although not as much as I would like. In Kenya I volunteered at a school, and so I built relationships with some of the female teachers. They were beautiful, warm women, who cared deeply about the children under their care. They laughed freely, but I also heard bits and pieces of their problems with their husbands, about demands that as I woman in the western world found shocking, but were quite normal to them. These women were also very entrepreneurial starting small businesses to make extra money for their family, making jewellery and trinkets to sell at the tourist market. I also saw how difficult it was for them to access and pay for healthcare – there were many hardships they had to overcome, and yet they still did it with such joy and generosity.
As a young woman in business, what does women’s empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment is having equal access to the opportunities, education and resources as men do in business. So far in my journey I have found this to be the case, although our target market is largely women so I don’t have as many difficulties as other women in business I imagine. I still face everyday sexism in my role, which sometimes makes things frustrating and difficult. I particularly recall a day where a male executive I was pitching to told me that I had a sexy voice – I was quite shocked and really angry. Being put in those situations as a female entrepreneur is difficult because of course you need to call out sexism when you see it, but it especially sucks when those actions then jeopardise opportunities.
What can we learn from other another as influential women?
As women we can teach each other so much. How to step outside of gender stereotypes, to chase after your goals and dreams, however unlikely they may seem. How to stand up to injustice, how to find courage and inspiration when you need it. That anything is possible. I read an article this week on the rising consumer power of women and just what a force for economic change that is going to be in so many areas. It highlights that collectively as women we can transform the world.