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International Women’s Day - A day dedicated to reflect on the evolution and progression of the achievements of women in all spheres of life: social, economic, political, and personal. Each year we join together to celebrate a goal to move with solidarity and purpose. The 2019 initiative strives for gender equality, a greater awareness of discrimination and a celebration of women’s achievements. Today on March 8th I want to honor 8 women who have broken barriers and are continuing to make a noteworthy impact. #balanceforbetter


An American-Armenian entrepreneur and businesswoman, Carolyn Rafaelian is America’s richest jeweler, a self-made billionaire, and a mother of three. While raising her young children, Rafaelian turned a small, family run costume jewelry business into Alex and Ani. What started as 25 people in a warehouse basement, is now a 1,000+ employee strong company. Alex and Ani is an humanitarian company that designs meaningful, eco-conscious jewelry that connects its wearers to a greater purpose. This multi-tasking mama inspires us to “adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit.”


Isarou Ceesay became painfully aware of the environmental challenges she witnessed in Gambia – harmful plastic bags littered all around her village, killing the local ecosystem. Determined to make a change, Ceesay founded the Njau Recycling and Income Generation Group, whose initiative turns waste into wealth: women collect the colorful plastic bags and upcycle them into bags, mats, purses, and more. For over 17 years, she has been empowering women and eliminating waste. More than 100 women gain income thanks to Ceesay’s organization, showing us that one person can spark great change.


Raised in Iraq in Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, Zainab Salbi is no stranger to the lasting damage of war. Exposed to countless atrocities, she resolved to dedicating her life to empowering women. At the age of 23, Zainab founded Women for Women International. This organization serves women survivors of war by offering support, tools, and access to life skills to help them move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency. Between direct aid and micro credit loans, Women for Women International has impacted more than 1.7 million family members in a vast array of conflict areas. An inspiration to all, Zainab Salbi teaches us the power of unity.


As a movie producer, Livia Firth noticed unethical and wasteful practices that the film and fashion industry was perpetuating. Often photographed on the red carpet, she used her visibility to establish the Green Carpet Challenge. - to wear only ethical, sustainable and repurposed fashion, often wearing the same gowns as part of her #30wears pledge. In 2009 Firth established Eco Age, a consultancy firm that provides sustainability solutions for luxury names like Chopard, Erdem, Stella McCartney and Gucci. Also, a women’s rights campaigner, she launched The Circle, an advocacy group working to overcome poverty and empower women around the world. A true renaissance woman, Firth teaches us that doing what is right is always in fashion. 


The founder of the (AHA) Foundation, Ayaan Hirsi Ali works tirelessly to raise awareness of violence against women, including honor killings, genital mutilation, and other harmful traditional practices. As a young girl she was subjected to female genital mutilation like many young women in Somalia and later forced to marry against her will, she experienced first-hand how women’s rights are frequently violated. Fleeing and claiming political asylum in Holland, she worked her way up from being a janitor to serving as an elected member of parliament. Ayaan is an example of a strong woman rising from the flames of abuse and violence to save others from facing the horrors she experienced.


Former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, Indian-born Indra Nooyi describes herself as a proud mother of two. Bringing to light the positives and negatives of being a career driven mom, Nooyi stands as an inspiration and support to those who experience motherhood in modern day families. As a young child, she would pretend to be different world leaders with her sister and conjure up elaborate speeches on how they imagined themselves in command. Nooyi used her leadership skills as CEO of PepsiCo, moving corporate spending away from junk foods and into “good for you” alternatives. Not only did she lead the company in a healthier direction, sales grew 80% while she was at the helm. Nooyi breaks stereotypes and inspires each of us as a woman, a minority, and a mom leading a Fortune 500 company.


Her mission? Enhance education, improve nutrition to reduce child deaths, provide the poor with access to financial tools, teach farmers how to increase production sustainability, and deliver life-saving vaccines. Not only is she a huge part of spearheading the Gates Foundation, she is also a business woman and a mother. Gates shows us that women do not have to be defined by a singular title. 

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s take a moment to focus on the remarkable women who surround us and explore ways to make an impact in our community, our country, our world. Let us unite and support each other. In the wise words of our good friend and fellow feminist, Tina Fey, “Bitches get stuff done.”

Love + Light,

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