Elizabeth Nyamayaro on how to make a difference

Sarah Karmali
·4-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

From Harper's BAZAAR

In celebration of International Women's Day, we hosted our inaugural 'Evening with Harper’s Bazaar’ - in association with YPO, Veuve Clicquot and Clé de Peau Beauté - with special guests including model and activist Iman and Dior's creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri.

As part of the proceedings, Elizabeth Nyamayaro - founder of the UN's HeForShe campaign - discussed the impact of the movement, finding strength in adversity and the vital importance of getting men involved in conversations around gender equality.

Below, she outlines the key steps anyone can take if they want to make a difference...

Find your cause

“One way to get started is to just identify one issue that you care about, then learn as much as you can about that. What are the facts? How is that impacting people that you know or people around the world? And then once you do that, just take action."

Start small

“Try doing small things at a time; drink one cup of water a day; write that one page in your book; read that one page of a book; call one friend. The important thing is to do just one thing each day at a time. And you repeat that the next day until you find your purpose again. The important thing is just to keep moving and keep acknowledging that none of us are too small to make a difference. In fact, one of my favourite African sayings is, ‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try spending a night in a room with a mosquito’. No one is too small to make a difference!”

Get involved

“What’s incredible is that there are so many organisations now advocating for social justice and for change, so you can either volunteer or you could work for them. And if there’s nothing in your area then you can actually be the change and start your own initiative – whether that’s a school club, or a club in your place of work. But the important thing is to do something. And recognise that no action is ever too small.”

Photo credit: Harper's Bazaar
Photo credit: Harper's Bazaar

Acknowledge struggles

“Acknowledge that it is challenging to know where to begin; there are just way too many challenges impacting our world. But it’s also the reason why we can’t give up.

“It’s important to acknowledge that it’s okay not to be okay, and to try and find a way to deal with those emotions in a healthy way. But then after that, I think you just need to try and find a way to keep moving forward.

Don’t give up

“Well I knew I couldn’t give up. I held this strong conviction, and still do, on so many levels, that my life must have been saved for a reason all those years ago. I also knew that my desire to create change in the world was inextricably linked to the dreams and the hopes that I had for my own family, community and continent. So I knew that I had to be part of the solution in trying to create a better world and make a difference to the lives of others. And so I persevered against all odds.”

Act as if it’s impossible to fail

“That is actually one of my favourite quotes and it’s given me the determination and the courage to dare to invent the future. I mean you need a bit of that madness and that courage to think that one day you can wake up and say, ‘You know what? I think I want to be part of ending gender inequality.’ But then when you think about the state of our current world, it’s very difficult to not just go for it. There’s so much work that needs to be done, you just have to do it. That’s how I motivate myself: you have to act like it’s impossible to fail.”

But if you do fail, learn from it

“One of my favourite quotes is by Nelson Mandela and he said: ‘Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by the number of times that I failed and got up’ – and I think that’s the important lesson. It’s okay to fail, and it’s often the case that we find some of our biggest lessons in our moments of failure. We not only know how to do something better next time, but also you often find that you learn a lot about your own strength and resilience that you often underestimate. So I think there is actually power in not being afraid to fail. Because failure is an important part of the process.”

If you missed our 'Evening with Harper's Bazaar' event, in celebration of International Women's Day, you can still watch the interview with Elizabeth Nyamayaro in full, on demand.

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