Paulina Stachnik

HOW DID YOU IDENTIFY YOUR PASSION AND THE WORK THAT SATISFIED YOU VERSUS WORK THAT JUST PAID THE BILLS?

I’m a passionate person by nature – so the idea of committing to a career I wasn’t invested in, heart and soul, felt like a life sentence (setting practical realities aside, no joke). Working at Women for Women International is a dream job because I can honestly say I’m fulfilling my vocation of working towards women’s empowerment while being able to see the positive impact coming together as a human collective can have in making sure we all have access to the equal opportunities. The women survivors of war we serve inspire me every day; they are true survivors in every sense, and filled with such resourcefulness, compassion and joy. Not to mention they make some of the determined and savvy entrepreneurs I’ve ever known. While I understand it’s a privilege to be able to say you love your job, I hope that it’s the case for more and more people as this sense of fulfilment is often directly connected to making the most positive changes in the world.

FOR YOU PERSONALLY, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FEMINISM AND EMPOWERMENT?

For me feminism and empowerment are two sides of the same coin – you can’t have one without the other. Fundamentally, feminism is the idea that, as human beings, we deserve equality in terms of the opportunities we’re given and the how far we can push our potential. Empowerment is about the results of those ideas – it’s the economic, political and social power we can gain from having those opportunities in the first place. Feminism comes in various shapes and forms – there is no one size fits all – but empowerment is the end objective. Feminists can be CEO’s or stay at home mums, but the point of empowerment is that you’re able to make those choices for yourself in a society that has the built-in structures – whether it’s equal pay, affordable daycare options, or male toilets equipped with changing tables – to support those decisions.

WHO WILL ETERNALLY BE A WOMAN YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT, AND WHY?

My grandmother – or Babcia (I’m Polish-American) – is a woman I will always admire because she taught me the meaning of grit, hard work and unconditional love very early on. Poland’s cultural landscape is still quite steeped in tradition – when I go back to visit I see how this subtly plays into day-to-day realities. For example, commercials advertising children’s medicine always feature – and are aimed at – mothers, because it’s assumed that they will be the ones who will take care of the kids when they’re sick. My Babcia was able to build a full-time career as a head teacher while running a household, cooking every day, and making sure the whole family was well cared for. As they’ve gotten older, my Dziadzius (grandfather) has taken on a lot of these duties and it’s interesting to see how he’s able to see appreciate how much work goes into making something look so effortless. It’s great to see that these binary expectations are shifting – my partner and I split cooking and housework 50/50 – but women all over the world are still taking on these second shifts – or double burdens— and it’s so important to recognise this in order to create more inclusive societies where efforts are valued equally.

IN LIGHT OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR HASHTAG #WHYITRIBE, WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATE WHO WE ALREADY ARE TODAY?

I love the positivity #WhyITribe represents: it is inclusive, community-driven and provides a safe platform for women to feel strong and supported. While we need to stay progressive and forward thinking, it’s also so important to acknowledge how far we’ve already come and remember the invaluable importance of self-care and self-love on our feminist journeys. It’s awesome to be a part of a community that celebrates that.

WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN SHY AWAY FROM CELEBRATING OR PRAISING THEMSELVES SO MUCH?

For centuries, women were meant to be ‘seen and not heard’ and the impact of this is still felt. We can’t glaze over the cumulative effect this has had as we continue to push intersectional feminism forward. The classical ideal woman was painted as meek, demure, gentle and soft-spoken – ask Botichelli – so accepting her strength (and praise for it) seemed crass. Luckily, that is changing especially as we reclaim words and apply new meaning. I love that Sheryl Sandberg encourages young girls to think of their ‘bossy’ tendencies as an indication of leadership skills. The more we speak up and engage in dialogue, the further we can move the needle on the womanhood conversation in a more confident, honest and inclusive direction.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE TENDENCY TO DISCREDIT COMPLIMENTS YOU ARE GIVEN?

I once heard that compliments are like gifts. If someone gave you a heartfelt token of appreciation you wouldn’t dismiss it would you? Thinking of compliments as genuine gestures offered with warmth and sincerity has allowed me to accept – and treasure – them more gracefully.

WHY IS THE TRIBE MOVEMENT IMPORTANT?

As women – and as human beings – the value of finding ‘our people’ is paramount. This, of course, shouldn’t mean staying in an echo chamber, or only gravitating towards people who look and sound like us – quite the opposite. Celebrating our differences and supporting each other is key to positive change. I love that THE TRIBE not only stands for this, but that it’s part of your DNA. Our power is collective, and digital communities have proven their power to change the world.

Occupation: Campaign Manager at Women for Women International - UK (@womenforwomenuk)

Website: www.womenforwomen.org.uk

Instagram: paulina.stachnik