I sat down with the wonderful Charrlotte De’Davis, founder of The BARDOU Foundation, advocate for female empowerment, inclusive personality and maker of noise in the gender equality discussion, to talk about her personal experience of empowerment and the International Day of the Girl Child.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE TWO R’S IN YOUR NAME?
My grand-uncle and my grandmother run the family business – an International trading business working with commodity brands such as Huntley and Palmers, trading between Europe and West Africa. What was interesting about my grandmother was that she was born in the 1920s and she wasn’t given the opportunities for education in the same way the males in the family were, but it was something she fought exceptionally hard for. She didn’t just fight for her education, she fought for all the other women in the family and she became an advocate for the education of women. My Grandmother has been the driving-force behind my aspirations and the work of The BARDOU Foundation.
I am named after her; she is also called Charlotte and she is my inspiration. I added the extra R in remembrance of her – her unique and remarkable spirit. It is a reminder to always stay true to my uniqueness and to remember to always stay true to myself.
SO, TELL US EXACTLY WHAT IS THE BARDOU FOUNDATION?
The BARDOU Foundation is a charitable initiative started in 2017. It’s main and sole purpose is to work with organisations that focus on the education and economic empowerment of girls and women. We partner with the Prince’s Trust, The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and other organisations that fall into that category.
WHY IS FEMALE EMPOWERMENT IMPORTANT TO YOU, AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS IN RELATION TO THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD?
I believe this goes back to the environment I grew up in. I understood how important it was to be supported and empowered. My grandmother stood for female empowerment, which means I learnt from an early age, that as a collective we need to first empower each other. We need to look at other women and think “what am I doing to make a difference for those who don’t have the same opportunities I do?” Female empowerment is very much close to my heart and it’s in my DNA, it’s what I stand for, it’s in my values, it’s in my ethics.
WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF EMPOWERMENT AND EMPOWERING OTHERS?
My personal experience, from an early age, aside from my grandmother came from my grandfather. He was an advocate for women and when selecting male allies, from friends to those who have been the driving force behind The BARDOU Foundation, I always look for the same qualities that I saw in my grandfather.
CAN YOU SHARE A MESSAGE WITH OUR COMMUNITY ABOUT EMPOWERMENT?
One of the things I’ve found recently is that the term “empowerment” is being used quite loosely. For those of us fuelling the empowerment train, we should be looking at what we are doing to power it, and what we are doing to help other girls and women be in a better position in life.
FINISH THIS SENTENCE: THE FUTURE IS…
Bold. Because in terms of what BEBOLD represents, I hope there will be more women making a difference within female communities.
At this point we are joined by our Founders, Mathilde and Nicoline. BEBOLD and The Bardou Foundation will be running a collaborative event on the International Day of the Girl Child, so we discussed what that would entail.
EVERYONE, PLEASE TELL THE READERS ABOUT THE CHARITY EVENT FOR BEBOLD X THE BARDOU FOUNDATION?
CHARRLOTTE: It is in celebration of International Day of the Girl Child. This year, we decided to highlight the male role models in the world through the #HeForHer campaign; a campaign for men that are leading by example and making a difference in girls and women’s lives.
OKAY, SO FOR MATHILDE AND NICOLINE, WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES IN FEMALE EMPOWERMENT?
MATHILDE: Our experience (I think I can speak for Nicoline on this) is in starting BEBOLD – running the events, opening The Bold Women’s Club, establishing a place where women can come together in celebration of being women. Our experience is that when you bring women together in the same room, they leave feeling more empowered than when they entered. That’s what we believe and what we try to do.
NICOLINE: At the same time, we don’t want to exclude men, because it’s not a solution to exclude the other 50% of humans in the world – it doesn’t lead anywhere good. There are many amazing men out there who we also want to celebrate.
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD IN RELATION TO THIS EVENT?
MATHILDE: To me it’s self-explanatory – we speak a lot about women, but we often forget about girls who are equally as important, if not more so, because it’s when we’re young that we are most impressionable and most able to embody the things that we learn. Of course, if a woman was raised believing that she was less than a man, you can still change that mindset, but it’s harder to really internalise. When you start at a young age, that’s when you can really live that belief.
NICOLINE: It’s harder to internalise new beliefs as an adult and learn a new version of what you think is “normal” than it is for kids, so that’s why we want to bring the International Day of the Girl Child into the limelight, because if we cherish the youth and empower them, they will grow up with the ability to create real, impacting, powerful change.
CHARRLOTTE: I totally agree, International Day of the Girl Child is about raising awareness of the issues that girls face so that we can start tackling the problem now, rather than waiting until the future where potentially it’s too late.
MATHILDE: On another note to that, we personally come from a privileged perspective, we’ve grown up in developed countries with our first-world problems, but we want to remind others that there are even harder challenges that girls face in developing countries.
NICOLINE: 1 in 3 high school girls in Denmark try to cut themselves – and that’s in a country where life is handed to you! That’s something that deserves attention on a day like this for girls, but it’s also a statistic about girls in a developed country. I can’t imagine the hardships young girls go through growing up in poverty, in oppression, in conflict and emergency while they battle the struggles of growing pains and puberty at the same time.
CHARRLOTTE: I was reading that 16 million girls will never set foot in a classroom. When you think about how that’s such an untapped resource, it’s an absolute shame. They’ve proven that if you educate the girl, you educate the woman, you’re not just changing a family, you’re changing a community.
NICOLINE: In terms of what our #HeForHer movement is saying, it’s that from an early age, we encourage kids to embrace men and women, and other sexes, to work together with love and positivity.
WHO’S YOUR GREATEST MALE ALLY?
MATHILDE: My partner, my brother and all the men in my life who’ve taught me to love and respect myself.
NICOLINE: Exactly. It’s not that there’s just one. There might be a significant one, but all the individual experiences that we have with men that are uplifting count as having a male ally.
CHARRLOTTE: That’s true. For me, my male allies range from my mentor to close friends, those that have been my advocates over the years.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE TO MEN WHO STAND BACK AND DON’T LEAD BY EXAMPLE FOR FEAR OF REPROACH OR MISUNDERSTANDING?
NICOLINE: Speak up. More women should tell men that we want to hear what they have to say, too. Some of that responsibility is on our side to let them know that it’s ok and that we want them to join the debate. I completely understand why they don’t want to speak up! It can be scary.
CHARRLOTTE: There’s so much scrutiny going on that I’m sure a lot of men must feel like they have to be perfect in order to have a voice. We should embrace and encourage the men who are showing leadership and initiative within the female empowerment movement.
MATHILDE: We’re not man-haters, so men, let’s hear you! Anger and hate are the problem. Radicalism is the killer of progression. The goal in life is to be happy, and you don’t move forward in anger. Forgive, move forward, let go of the desire for revenge. The past is important, it is significant, and it doesn’t deserve to be forgotten, but we need to celebrate the present and lead by example into the future.
NICOLINE: Look at someone like Martin Luther King – a wonderful man – he didn’t talk about hate, he talked about love, and that’s how people come together to create real change, through love.