Corrections & Clarifications: This story was updated on March 22 to correct details about Sherie Scott’s family and the spelling of Josephine Chapita’s name.
At the Global Welcome Village Center on Saturday, Luisa Funez proudly presented the booth of her small crafts business. Colorful earrings in the shape of flowers and butterflies. White t-shirts with the face of Frida Kahlo.
It was his passion project, his love for art and intricate designs, come to life.
On Saturday, she had the opportunity to present her work in front of dozens of women, all from diverse backgrounds and cultures, gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day.
They are business owners, immigrants and mothers, who bring all of their unique styles and strengths to the cultural fabric of Indianapolis, all united in their mission to help each other succeed.
IndyStar spoke to seven people at the International Women’s Rally and asked them what femininity means to them.
Luisa Funez’s business, Bella Y Mas Accessories, was born out of pandemic boredom at home, mixed with entrepreneurial inspiration. She started watching jewelry making tutorials on YouTube, and with $150 she bought supplies and started selling her designs to family and friends. This eventually turned into a full-fledged store that grew “bit by bit”, located on the northeast side of Indianapolis.
Funez also runs a recruiting agency and tries to pass on her lessons to other female-led businesses. She immigrated to the United States from Honduras in 2005 and is the mother of two children.
“To be a woman, you have to be strong. Help each other. Because if you don’t help each other, you (can’t) do anything, you know? Whenever I see a woman, she wants to start a business, I encourage her to start the business. I teach what little I know, I let them know. I don’t hide any secrets, you know, I tell them ‘Hey, you have to do this and this and that.’ And that’s the kind of woman I want my (daughter) to be. Share what you know, that knowledge she has, with other people.
Sherie Scott works as an educator during the day, but says she’s always had a distinct passion for retail. She enjoys interacting with customers, being creative and above all, making sure other women feel comfortable and beautiful in what they wear. She, too, launched her clothing and accessories business during the pandemic.
His company, The sophisticated diva, is entirely online, and when you ask her name, she says, “That’s me. She has four children, including one-year-old twins.
“What being a woman means to me is strength. It’s definitely empowering other women, like being a champion and a cheerleader. So understanding that, we carry our emotions, but we too share our hearts for a lot of things. We care and love a lot. And honestly, I think we’re rock stars because as a woman you take on a lot of challenges and a lot of plates but you don’t even think about yourself. You just do it because it has to be done.
“So I think being selfless is also what I feel is a characteristic of being a woman. And then we’re also nannies, no matter if you have kids of your own… just building each other up too And I know that’s still what I want to do and be for other women.
Patricia Musariri is the president of Intrinz Inc, a language consulting and services company, and she chaired this year’s International Women’s Gathering event. She immigrated from Zimbabwe in 1995 and has lived in Indiana ever since. For the past 10 years, Musariri and his group of friends have regularly hosted tea parties, or “chai,” bringing food from their respective cultures, representing Ukraine, India, Cuba and South Africa. . These informal gatherings eventually led to the start of the annual International Women’s Gathering event in 2019.
“What being a woman means to me is really love. It’s us who bring love into this world. We feed love. It’s feeding love, giving, maybe be a small sacrifice that we shouldn’t, but that’s what being a woman means to me. Just love… We know what it’s like to bring life into this world. We don’t don’t take life so lightly, so you know, if more women were involved in some of the decision-making around the world, I think we’d have a much better world.
Nellie Namwali and Josephine Chapita
Nellie Namwali and Josephine Chapita both work as nurse practitioners and are from Malawi. They enjoy attending community events like this where they are surrounded by women from different backgrounds and professions. This year, Namwali said her biggest lesson was to remember to be an advocate for herself.
Namwali: “I think that means everything. Because I feel like women, we represent – of course, we represent the vast majority of the world’s population right now – but we have a sense of bringing people together. We feel like we are showing love and care. Just lift each other up and we know how to pray for each other. That’s all it means to me to know that I can influence someone, empower someone without me feeling behind you. It’s OK for me to be behind and see her succeed. Because I know… if I need her in the future, she’ll be there for me.
Chapter: “Being a woman means a lot to me. It makes me feel fulfilled and loving and independent. I feel like I’m learning a lot by having my own kids… So it just gives me a sense of ownership… raising the kids, teaching them, like grooming them. It just makes me feel (full).
Rupal Thanwala is a business and digital strategist who also serves various community organizations in Indianapolis, including the Asian American Alliance. She spoke at Saturday’s event as a panelist, discussing her background in business and her experiences with bias in the workplace. She is originally from India and has lived in Indianapolis for over two decades.
“Being women means that we are the origin of life. But then, more importantly now, what I really see as a woman is a person who is a force. Often we have been seen as a weaker person…Each individual is unique, and we are not different.That’s all it means to me…We need to speak up because often times we haven’t (received) what we deserve.So, we don’t ask for anything more, no special treatment, but just treat us as equals. So I think that’s the best thing about being a woman.
“Everyone is different and everyone is unique. We often define people simply by their gender, race, religious background or any sexual orientation. Why can’t we just treat everyone like we are all human beings and that we are all created by God (with) very unique skills (and) strengths.
Mulalo Rikhotso works part-time as a programmer and web designer, and she was a committee member for this year’s International Women’s Gathering. She is originally from South Africa and has lived in Indianapolis since 2000. Her children are grown now, she says, but she remembers the challenges of juggling parenthood and work.
“Being a woman is being everything. Because we do everything. It’s not just one thing. If you’re a mother, it’s another advantage. There are so (many) things that you do. So I don’t know if I can categorize it into one because… to be a woman is to be everything.