In the wake of International Women's Day and as we approach Mothering Sunday, Jayn Sterland, Managing Director of Weleda UK, reflects on the strength of women both past and present, and speaks to how we can lead by example.
Of all the images coming out of the war being raged by the Putin regime on Ukraine this week, this one has stuck with me. It is of a collection of baby buggies at the Polish border, donated by caring Polish families for the thousands of Ukrainian mothers fleeing from the war, babes-in-arms, and it appeared in my social media feed on International Women’s Day earlier this week. These mothers and babies were the lucky ones, they had managed to get to the border. But they left behind their homes, their menfolk, their way of life and their extended friends and families. It’s incredible to think this is happening on our doorstep and it feels very close to home here at Weleda.
We have heard our Weleda team are safe (for now) in Ukraine, which is a relief. Our thoughts are also with our Russian colleagues – we have suspended our business in Russia as protest against the Putin regime. There are many victims of this conflict, and we are doing what we can behind the scenes to help, from sending aid through to supporting our people and our projects on the ground, but it doesn’t seem enough.
This week we received a short, heartfelt speech from our Ukrainian born Weleda Executive Board Member, Dr Nataliya Yarmolenko. Nataliya talked about living in a time of many man-made crises: namely the crisis of nature and the climate emergency, the Coronavirus global pandemic – a crisis of health and social society, and now the political crisis of war in Europe and the humanitarian disaster happening in Ukraine. In her address she reminded us of one of our Weleda values, namely LEADERSHIP – we are each responsible for the other and for the future of all life on the planet. Of course, being responsible must be lived, and requires us to step forward consciously with courage, clarity and purpose in our actions to do the right thing.
Another medical doctor, our co-founder Dr Ita Wegman, combatted discrimination during her life, both as a woman and as an immigrant. Undeterred and inspired by her purpose, she continued to put care and kindness into her every day through her work at the hospital she founded, and where Weleda was born. As we approach Mother’s Day, I think of the vision and courage of women around the world. I think of Dr Ita Wegman, the courage of Ukrainian women, of the courage of my own mum who fought her own battle to get to university and became the first female doctor in the Outer Hebrides. Each taking responsibility and using their actions to make a difference.