In the Eastern part of the world, International Women's Day commemorates how far women have come and our achievements along the way. A national holiday in Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia, March 8th marks a twenty-four hour period where women are praised and honoured throughout society.
IWD gives a fresh perspective on equal rights, and has been celebrated for a century in Soviet territories, but it's only just catching on to the rest of the world. This year, men all across the world lead the way forward, honouring women to their true potential.
In China, a group of men took a real walk in their lady's shoes. Last week, a group of trendsetters climbed the stairs of a mountain in Guangzhou, China...in heels. If you've learned anything from RuPaul, it's that men are actually more than capable of contorting their feet into triangle shaped stilettos at a 70° angle; but hiking a mountain in heels would put any of us on the struggle bus.
The men didn't stop at heels, though. Dresses, skirts, and tissue filled bras were also sported on the hike.
Much more of an impact than flowers...
On a more serious note, another company and organisation teamed up to really make a difference. In Afghanistan, women don't have much leeway when it comes to attire - needless to say this stunt would never cut it a couple thousand kilometres to the left. But this year in this Middle-Eastern hub, women's capability was also praised.
Hijabs have caused mounds of tension across the world, and throughout traditional settings; but the largest downfall of traditional garb is practicality. In Afghanistan, hijabs limit what women can and cannot do. Just as the heel has evolved from an immobilisation device to an agile accessory, hijabs and traditional dress have come extraordinarily far from the loose impractical headdresses they once were.
Hummel, a 'bumblebee' sporting goods company, teamed up with
the Afghanistan National Olympic team - who've only had their feet on the ground since 2007 - to upgrade the materials, shape, and practicality of the female hijab. Until this 2016 introduction, it remained a choice for women to either tread against their beliefs for football, or not to sweat it at all.
Since 2011, hummel has officially sponsored both the men's and women's football teams. Designer Paul Fitzgerald collaborated with Khalida Popal, the women's captain, to rid the team of weathered red shirts and an aged logo. Paying tribute to the mountains of Afghanistan, the pair came up with a lion motif, exhibiting the strength, courage, and patience of the team. Working up from there, the updated uniforms concentrated on how to make the hijab really wearable. Ditching cotton for sporty fabric, the hoodlike hijab now cups the head, allowing for maximum movement without disruption.
"The uniform launched on International Women's Day for women’s empowerment,” Popal told People Magazine. “And the uniform means a lot for the national team of Afghanistan — especially for the women — because they fought to wear it and it says, 'I am a woman and I'm able to play under the flag of my country.'"
In addition to the hijab, leggings were also added to the uniform to give players an understructure that ticked all the boxes. Only two years after FIFA lifted its ban on religious headdresses, this redesign has not only revolutionised the sport, but also lead by example of how religion doesn't have to be a sacrifice.
“We don’t sponsor the biggest teams in the world, but we make partnerships with teams and clubs with a story to tell, like Afghanistan," says hummel owner Christian Stadil in a press release. “We try to meet the Afghan people where they are, and right now that is by helping the women play football with or without a hijab.”
See the inspiration behind the meaningful collaboration in the video below.
We've got another whole 359 days until the next International Women's Day, but why should it only be one day? It's amazing to be able to celebrate how far we've come, but let's not settle for a day of praise; let's make it a prospective future for equality.