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"If we hold back women, we hold back society"

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To mark International Women’s Day, Elders Desmond Tutu and Graça Machel took to Twitter for a live Q&A. This is a summary of how the event unfolded.

Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu answered questions on how to catalyse women's rights from a range of civil society, including entrepreneurs, activists, NGOs and youth groups.

Many of the questions focussed on society's relationship with and treatment of women, from institutions like the media to boys and men.

Graça Machel lamented the media's portrayal of women as "simply victims," emphasising their roles as thinkers, entrepreneurs and leaders.

"We need to educate not only women to protect themselves but also how men regard women," she urged.

Another key theme discussed in the Q&A was the responsibility of leaders to support gender equality and women's rights.

Graça Machel urged religious leaders to accept that "sexuality is part of human life," while Desmond Tutu replied that they have an opportunity to make their communities more open.

 Answering a question on changing the gender narrative, Desmond Tutu highlighted the influence of leaders on the rest of society:

 Graça Machel emphasised that leaders can play a role in support of equality by speaking out against injustice towards women and girls, adding:


A key piece of information many of the Q&A participants were looking for was what civil society and individuals can do to empower women.

Graça Machel stressed how civil society can "change mindsets" and bring attention to norms that are harmful to individuals and communities.

She and Desmond Tutu highlighted the importance of several factors for empowering girls in particular: giving girls access to information and knowledge through technology; ensuring girls are able to stay in school; mentoring and establishing support networks.

Desmond Tutu delivered the overarching message of the Q&A:

Read the full transcript of the Twitter Q&A.

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