Women around the world share lessons learned during the pandemic

By Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 6:17 a.m. ET, March 8, 2022
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2:46 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Shalini Mahtani, founder of the Zubin Foundation, Hong Kong

Shalini Mahtani is the founder and CEO of the Zubin Foundation in Hong Kong – a think tank and charity focused on improving the lives of Hong Kong’s marginalized ethnic minorities.

She described three things that have helped her navigate the pandemic.

"One, my girlfriends, just having them around and talking to them on the phone or on Zoom has been hugely helpful. Two, exercise and working out as much as I can and three, helping those in need who are less privileged."

"Through the Zubin Foundation, simply by providing food and necessities through care boxes has really helped put my life into perspective," she added.

2:25 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Evgeniya Chirikova, Russian environmental activist

Evgeniya Chirikova is a Russian environmentalist, activist and coordinator of social media portal activatica.org for supporting grassroots activism in Russia. 

She told CNN that Covid has "seriously" impacted her life. She said she lost a good friend to the virus, fellow environmentalist Evgeniy Usov.

"Evgeniy was the first to share with me the problems of the Nord Stream 2 project. Evgeniy inspired me to start a campaign against the Nord Stream 2 project. Unfortunately, Evgeniy died of Covid."

She said the pandemic has taught her that "life is short and fragile" and if you have plans "implement them quickly, do not wait for better, special, times." 

2:05 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Celina Jaitly Haag, Indian actress and UN equality champion

Indian actress and United Nations equality champion Celina Jaitly Haag emphasized the need for education and for women to be empowered.

"One of the biggest lessons that I learned from this pandemic was the fact that my superpower lies in the fact that I was allowed to become an empowered, economically independent, strong and educated woman. And I derive so much strength from it," she told CNN.

"We as women need to start our journey of empowerment today, educating the next generation. And finding support in our governments, in our societies, to be empowered so that we can derive the confidence that we need in times like this, of financial security, of a good system which is there to encourage us to get through terrible times like this," she added.
11:14 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Bindi Irwin, Australian wildlife conservationist 

From CNN's Jacqueline Rose

Bindi Irwin is an Australian wildlife conservationist and star of "Crikey! It's the Irwins" on discovery+.

She said the pandemic has been an "incredibly busy" time for her personally.

"I’ve been helping to run Australia zoo, continuing with our global conservation work, and my husband and I are expecting a beautiful baby girl very soon," she told CNN.

She said her message to all women is "remember it’s ok to ask for help."


1:41 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Angelique Kidjo, Beninese-American singer-songwriter, actress, and activist 

From CNN's Stephanie Busari

Four-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo is a Beninese-American singer-songwriter, actress, and activist.

Kidjo has more than 13 albums to her name and is also a UNICEF and Oxfam goodwill ambassador.

"What I've learned during this pandemic is that solidarity and sisterhood can help us face the hardest challenges to sustain our resilience," she told CNN.

"I would encourage every woman to try to meet other women to try to create a community of sisterhood. If we do so, there's nothing we cannot do."
1:15 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Jewher Ilham, Uyghur rights' activist

Jewher Ilham is an author, rights activist, and the daughter of Uyghur scholar, Ilham Tohti. The last time Ilham saw her father was in 2013 at the Beijing airport, where he was detained by Chinese authorities.  

“The pandemic created a situation where people are physically isolated, Unfortunately, that’s not new for the Uyghurs," she told CNN.

She continued: "Uyghurs have been separated from their families and loved ones for a long time because of the repression. It’s been especially devastating to hear accounts from Uyghur women that have been subjected to gender based violence and harassments. However the pandemic also created opportunities for digital campaigns to protect and keep people safe, including digital campaigns on Uyghur rights."

Ilham said she's been "very inspired" to hear the stories of Uyghur people "lifted up" on social media.

"It has been so important for Uyghurs including me to have solidarity from around the world, my message to you is please stand up for Uyghur women, for people all around the world regardless of your ethnic or religious identity."
12:58 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Madeleine Albright, first female US secretary of state

Madeleine K. Albright is Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group and a professor, author, diplomat and businesswoman who served as the 64th Secretary of State of the United States from 1997 to 2001.

Albright made history as America's first female secretary of state and told CNN that:

"Women's talents are needed in order to have a better world."

"In celebration of International Women's Day I want to send a special message that women have the talents to deal with the horrible pandemic that's going on and that comes from the fact that we know how to multi-task, which gives us peripheral vision so that we can see the problems that are out there and those that are coming to hit us," Albright said.

She pointed out that some of the countries that have handled the Covid-19 pandemic exceptionally well have female leaders and that the world can only benefit from more women in leadership positions.

12:37 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s first transgender cabinet member

Audrey Tang is Taiwan’s digital minister in charge of social innovation and the self-ruled island's first openly transgender cabinet member.

To mark International Women's Day she told CNN that each one of us can "go above and beyond all expectations."

She explained how at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak experts predicted Taiwan would be one of the worst-hit places because of its proximity to mainland China. But despite the odds, Taiwan proved the opposite, keeping the pandemic well under control without any island-wide lockdown and relatively few deaths.

"So a small country can excel and contribute to the world and so can you," Tang said.
12:32 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Malala Yousafzai, activist and youngest Nobel Prize laureate

From CNN's Chloe Melas

Girls' rights activist Malala Yousafzai had an important reminder for girls and women around the world, reminding them to "take a break."

"From harassment to inequality, to discrimination based on their gender, to unequal pay, all of these things are important and we need to keep working on it. But, I also want to take this moment to remind all of those amazing and incredible women out there just to take a break," she told CNN's Chloe Melas.

"They have done so much, and right now some of them are studying from home, some of them are looking after their kids and they are parenting and they also have jobs to do. There is so much on their shoulders and they carry all of that with grace and with dignity, so be proud of yourself, be proud of all you have done and achieved in your life," she continued.

"Let’s celebrate and be proud of who we are and what we have done for women and everyone around us."