Happy International Women’s Day! Today marks the day that celebrates women from all walks of life with a theme “Be Bold for Change” this year. A long history of why, how and when it started can be read more here.

If you are a woman, pat yourself on the back for having a strong backbone; give yourself credit for making so many changes in your life and other people’s lives. Today is about you because you deserve it.

With that said, here are 8 practical ways I could think of to celebrate you and other women around you:

1. Participate.

You don’t have to be a woman to participate; you can be an advocate for women’s rights.

A lot of times, we are eager to participate in a cause but don’t know where to start. Other than raising awareness through social media, there are other ways you can simply celebrate the women in your lives- it’s a time to be creative. Appreciate them; genuinely acknowledge their hard work through words and simple gifts, especially if they never expected anything in return.

Alternatively, you can go to International Women’s Day website to check for local events here, for a formal celebration.

  1. Embrace yourself.

Women tend to suffer from low self-esteem more than men. Regardless of that, we make things happen anyway because we care and we empathize. On a side note, here’s a really interesting read on scientific facts from Oprah Magazine on why this is the case and how to regain your confidence back.

Wherever you are in the world, you have a role to play in the society regardless of your gender. Nobody has the right to tell you otherwise. You are important.  You can be the catalyst of change.

3. Make that first step

Now that you’ve embraced yourself, it’s time to make that first step. A big change won’t happen overnight; it takes time. If there is one job that you’ve been wanting to apply but you don’t feel qualify for: just do it! If you’ve been thinking about starting a business: start planning! If you’ve been thinking about writing a book: start writing! Whatever it is that you want to achieve, believe that you’ve got nothing to lose but gain grit and resilience along the way.

 “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho

  1. Walk away from toxic relationships.

Toxic relationships are inevitable sometimes. It’s difficult to change yourself to be better if there is someone who doesn’t support you. It’s not easy to just walk away; as a woman, I understand we care too much about other people’s feelings.

Sometimes, when it does affect your progress, you just have to be selfish. See them less and walk away- even if that means having fewer friends. In my opinion, having few quality friends is more important than having a lot of friends who don’t seem to genuinely care about you.

5. Stand up against any form of harassment.

It’s crucial that you report any kind of harassment that you experience at work or in public. Change can only be made when you voice out.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said,

The most complete of the believers in faith are those with the most excellent character, and the best of you are the best in behavior to their women.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1162]

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misunderstandings associated with women in Islam. They are often thought to be lower than men, but that is not the case. More often that not, some men use Islam to justify their actions. They’ve only got themselves to held accountable for in the hereafter if the worldly punishment is not already enough.

I am not denying the fact that there are Muslim-majority countries that don’t treat women equally and with respect, but you must account for socioeconomic factors and whether their basic human rights are fulfilled in the first place. It’s a complex problem and it’s not as simple as pointing out that Islam is the cause. If anything, Islam is part of the solution.

If you read the history of ‘The Great Women in Islam’ such as Maryam (R.A), Asiya (R.A) Khadija (R.A), Aisha (R.A), Asma (R.A) and among many others, you will find that they are empowered rather than oppressed. This is the kind of confidence that we should aspire to have.

There is a special weapon that any faithful person is already equipped with: du’a (prayer).

There are lots of Muslim women today from whom you can take an example too- you don’t have to look further; just look at women around you. To me, my mother inspires me every day because of the way she holds her head high despite the difficulties that she has gone through; she cares about people genuinely; and best of all, she’s the best cook ever! These are just a few qualities I can think of when I think about her.

Again, I can’t emphasize enough that you must, must report any kind of abuse or harassment immediately. Let your family know, tell a friend- no abuse or harassment is too little to be important.

  1. Help any woman in need.

If you are a brother, a son or a husband: please help women living with you in the house. It’s already tiring to work for 8 hours a day and for some, exhausted from taking care of their kids at home. Help with the chores even if it is as simple as taking out the trash. Work together; be a team. Don’t wait for your mother or your wife to ask you. In fact, start helping now. Then do it for the rest of your life.

7. Educate, educate, educate.

Are you a parent? Are you a teacher? Or, are you a concerned human being? I am a firm believer that everything starts from home. If you have a child, you are their walking textbook – good or bad. It’s important to set a good example; it doesn’t have to be huge. Kids tend to pick up your habit that you may not even realise.

If you are a teacher, you can be their source of inspiration. In fact, a conversation about International Women’s Day with your colleagues and friends would be a great idea. Putting your conversation into action would be a plus.

  1. Spiritual change

There is a special weapon that any faithful person is already equipped with: du’a (prayer). Sometimes, there is something that is holding us back from making that du’a because we feel like we’re not good enough or we don’t deserve it. Most of the time, we rush during prayer because there is something ‘important’ waiting for us.

What does this have to do with Women’s Day? Ultimately, there is only One who allows anything to happen. If we hold on to the rope of faith so strongly; nothing can stop us except Him. Prayer is a part of the 3 rules that we live by as a Muslim: making some effort, making du’a and then tawakkul (trust in Allah’s plans). If we are bold enough to make a change out there, why aren’t we bold enough to make a change within?

Sometimes, when your iman is dry – each of us has experienced this – it’s easy to just surrender and look for other means to change. As a Muslim woman, I struggle every day to keep up to my expectations and what I aim to achieve. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out, but you know- a good productive conversation with God is what I all need.