Emma Watson has described how she found her “tribe” after launching her HeForShe campaign at the United Nations (UN) two years ago – but admitted it hadn’t come without its difficulties, particularly in the days after.
“Two years ago I launched a campaign called HeforShe at the UN in New York. I was very nervous before that speech; the nerves were followed by a tremendous high immediately afterwards and a crashing low a few days after that,” she said.
“My best hopes and my worst fears were confirmed all at once. I had opened Pandora’s box to a standing ovation and almost simultaneously a level of critique I had never experienced in my life and the beginning of what would become a series of threats. The last two years have been a baptism of fire to say the least, where I learnt just how little I know, and also how much.”
The 26-year-old was speaking at the One Young World Summit (OYW) in Ottawa, Canada, where after being accused in the past of her feminism not being intersectional, she showed just how inclusive it was when she introduced young activists who won a OYW scholarship in her name on to the stage from countries across the world.
They included Honduras, Nepal, Albania, Mozambique, a Jamaican-Canadian who described the role race plays in her feminism, and a transgender person – who Emma used the wrong pronouns for when introducing and later thanked for pointing out the error.
“Reading the applications of activists who applied here for One Young World scholarships was, surprising to me,” Emma said. “Here I was reading the stories of people from nearly 200 different countries from around the world with experiences that I couldn’t even imagine. I mean they were so out of this world to me.
“And yet their notes looked like my notes. The same themes emerged over and over and over again. There was so much overlap with the things that I had been thinking about and that I had been struggling with. Because the truth is, it had never been about being an activist; it was about the choice to make myself visible and the choices that you made to do that too.”
The UN Women Goodwill Ambassador continued: “Apart from the significant progress the world has made in the cause for equality, the best thing about the last two years has been this. Finding people from such disparate experiences and communities, that I found that I have something in common with. This is a community of artists, spiritual teachers, dreamers, thinkers, doers, who work together and support each other.
“For the first time in my life, I found my sisterhood; a brotherhood – whatever, however you want to describe it – I found my tribe.
“My hope for you, while you are here, is that you will find some of your tribe too. I really needed mine.”
The activist and actress read out seven affirmations that are important to her before introducing her scholars: “I am willing to be seen, I am willing to speak up, I am willing to keep going, I am willing to listen to what others have to say, I am willing to go forward even when I feel alone, I am willing to go to bed each night, at peace with myself, I am willing to be my biggest, bestest, most powerful self.
“These seven statements scare the absolute s*** out of me,” she said. “But I know that they are at the crux of it all. At the end of the day, and when all is said and done, I know that these are the ways that I want to have lived my life.”