The time is now.
This was the overarching message at the UN Women’s fireside chat with Reese Witherspoon and Danai Gurira held Thursday at the United Nations in honor of International Women’s Day. Moderated by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, the actresses and activists talked about taking action on gender equality globally.
“The issue at the core and I think what resonates a great deal about Wakanda and the world that it brought was, go figure, that women and men work shoulder to shoulder,” said Gurira, talking about the impact of her role as Okoye, a female general in the recent “Black Panther” film. “I heard about a boy in the theater saying, ‘I never knew women could be generals.’ Storytelling to me has always been something very resonant and it brings about an image that we don’t get to see often. There is something about putting a story on a mega-screen that I think can resonate in a way that can actually be constructive because of the precedent it sets.”
Both spoke to the importance of giving a voice to women who have been silenced or ignored, emphasizing the need to continue the momentum generated through initiatives like the Time’s Up movement and #MeToo.
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“It started out in October with 40 women in a room just talking about how this is a problem and how we’re going to deal with it because enough is enough and time is up,” said Witherspoon, who has been a driving force behind the Time’s Up movement. “We are no longer going to be harassed, we are no longer going to be mistreated or discriminated against or paid less money.”
Witherspoon is also the face of Elizabeth Arden’s “March On” campaign, a series of digital activations that show the progress women have made marching together for equal rights. As part of the ongoing campaign, a limited-edition Elizabeth Arden red lipstick will be sold with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting UN Women. The brand has pledged $1 million to support UN Women’s global initiatives to support female empowerment.
Gurira ended the discussion with a call to action, asking everyone to stand up for women in any way possible.
“It’s about how we make sure these girls and women know that their potential is not left on the floor and it’s about how each one of us can do that very specifically,” she said. “I know it feels overwhelming, but there are ways that we can take a bite out of it and figure out how do we empower that one girl or those three girls. There are so many courageous women on the ground right now doing amazing work.”