Women and girls are celebrated worldwide on International Women’s Day, March 8th. As parents, we can educate our children on the importance of this day and why we should #InspireInclusion. Celebrating the achievements of women, highlighting existing discrimination, and finding ways to end gender division can help make our boys and girls feel equal and appreciated.
International Women’s Day was started in 1911, to celebrate and highlight the pursuit of equality for women which began in 1848 in New York. 70 years after the Declaration of Independence, a Declaration of Sentiments was drafted by Elizabeth Stanton and a group of women, highlighting that men and women were created equal and should now have that right in society. It is hard to believe that almost two hundred years on, not all women have equality.
The theme of IWD24 is #InspireInclusion. Inclusion is the practice of including someone in a group as an equal. To inspire is to encourage, be enthusiastic about and promote someone or something. If we are to #InspireInclusion with women, we should be enthusiastic and positive about someone we see as an equal. To believe that when we value the inclusion of women, we are making a better world.
As we approach March 8th and International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate strong women everywhere. A multi-faceted role as a woman can see her as a sister, daughter, and mother. Whatever the situation in their lives, many women have helped inspire the journey behind the inclusion of women. Written into history, we can use these to inspire us on our journey. This is a selection of women, some from times gone by, some still alive. Their roles are varied but all have immensely contributed to society, their sector and, importantly women everywhere.
Elizabeth Stanton 1815 – 1902
This woman is often overlooked in favour of Emily Pankhurst who helped secure the vote for women. Whilst Emily is truly inspirational, I want to salute Elizabeth who inspired women to start the journey toward equal rights. An outstanding woman, both for her time and for all history, Elizabeth grew up when the Declaration of Independence (1776) was still fresh in the American people’s minds. Lucky enough to be born into a progressive family, Elizabeth’s father was a lawyer. Elizabeth grew up hearing and contributing to political debates.
Elizabeth married an abolitionist but was angry at the exclusion of women at abolitionist events. At this time, she drew up the Declaration of Sentiments, which called for changes in the rights of women and listed 13 grievances. Her involvement in the Women’s movement was at the forefront and although she died before women over 21 were given the vote in 1928, her involvement was inspirational. She would have loved International Women’s Day.
Margaret Thatcher 1925 – 2013
Margaret will forever be in the history books in England. She was England’s first female prime minister, serving between 1979 – 1990. An achievement in itself, she has inspired women not just in the UK but worldwide. She was the longest-serving Prime Minister in the 20th century and won three elections. Her capacity to stick to her sometimes unpopular decisions and policies earned her the nickname of the ‘Iron Lady’.
Born to middle-class parents, Margaret went to Oxford University, married Dennis Thatcher, a business owner and passed the bar in 1954. She won a parliamentary seat in 1959 and steadily moved up the ranks, becoming Prime Minister in 1979. During her three terms in power, Margaret initiated many historic changes. In 1982, she went to the aid of the Falkland Islands against Argentina and successfully drove them out. Her second term saw her taking on the trade unions, standing firm during a year-long miner’s strike, and privatising large companies such as British Gas, British Airways and Rolls Royce. In her third term, she negotiated the transfer of Hong Kong to the Chinese and lowered income tax rates. Whether or not we agree with all her policies, there is no denying she is an amazing woman.
Catherine, Princess of Wales, born 1982
The Princess of Wales was born Catherine Middleton in 1982. Her parents were firstly flight attendants then owners of a children’s party business. She met Prince William at university, where they dated from approximately 2002, marrying in 2011. It would be taking the easy path to imagine how easy her life is now and wonder why she has been entered into this list.
To go from a middle-class background to one of the most photographed and important women in the world, dealing with both royalty and heads of state is both a huge step and a serious role. Kate’s life would not only have dramatically changed but she also transformed, physically and mentally, learning how to be a princess and future Queen Consort. Her popularity with the public ever since they married is a testament to how well she has learned her new role and how good she is as a public speaker.
Not only that, Kate has also carved her path within her many duties, and the public loves her for it. Her amateur photography skills ensure the public sees her family grow up in relaxed situations not previously seen. Her willingness to engage with the public and the ease at which she puts people is partly due to her speaking skills and background but also is down to her personality. She has also developed roles in charities associated with childhood development, the arts, mental health, and sports. Overall, she has carved her role in the royal family and succeeded in doing it with a grace that many admire. She is truly an inspirational woman.
Doreen Lawrence, born 1952
Doreen Lawrence was born in Jamaica and came to the UK when she was 9. She worked in a bank, married Neville Lawrence, and had a normal life until 1993. In that year, her teenage son, Stephen Lawrence was murdered in London in what was a racist attack. This hideous event could have been the end of Doreen but instead of only grieving she and her husband responded with grace and positivity, looking toward the future of other possible victims of racism. Rather than letting the memory of their son disappear with them, they founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in 1998. The trust aims to improve awareness of racial inequality, to improve inclusion, and to give opportunities to marginalised young people.
It took 6 years of campaigning by Doreen Lawrence for the police to finally set up an inquiry into how the police reacted to Stephen’s death. The inquiry concluded that the Met Police were racist in this occasion. In 2003, Doreen was awarded an OBE for her services to community relations and was made a life peer in 2013. She sits on panels for both the Home Office and the police and is a patron of the hate crime charity, Stop Hate UK. Rather than disappearing into grief and hate (which she would have been justified in doing so), Doreen responded on behalf of both her son and others at risk. She rightly deserves to be on this list.
Kiara Nirghin, born 2000
Kiara is South African. An inventor, she was just 16 when she won the Google Science Fair award for her invention made from orange and avocado peel that could hold up to 300 times its weight in water. It could be planted near crops to hold much-needed water. Her product helped her country as it faced drought. Kiara now travels as a speaker and in 2018 was nominated for the United Nations Young Champions of the Earth award.
Kiara started off reading National Geographic magazine and other science magazines with her sister and comparing notes. Growing up aware of the drought problem South Africa was facing, she looked for solutions. Not the usual activity you would expect from a teenager. Firstly, she considered using a polymer that was both expensive and non-biodegradable. Turning away from this option, she then turned to the cheap, biodegradable option that won her the prestigious prize. Her product now has a contract with an agricultural company and Kiara has done a TED talk and is studying at Stamford University. With a believe that girls should be encouraged in science as much as boys, she also puts forward that age is not a barrier. Which she is a good example of. Watch this space to see what else Kiara comes up with.
The influence of the COVID pandemic on gender equality
The Gender Snapshot 23, an annual global study on gender equality produced by UN Women showed that the COVID pandemic harmed female socioeconomic factors. Job losses, lack of education, and unpaid care work all increased, with the world still failing to achieve gender equality. If the trend continues, by 2030, more than 340 million women and girls will be in extreme poverty and the next generation will be doing an average of 2.3 more hours a day of unpaid domestic work and care. Progress is being made in girl’s education, but women’s workplace management positions will still be below parity.
How to celebrate International Womens Day
The Gender Snapshot 23 demonstrates that there is still work to be done on gender equality. International Women’s Day, gives women everywhere a chance to highlight this and also to celebrate women, both past and present. So we can focus on our achievements, raise awareness about discrimination, and act on closing the gender gap.
There are many ways we can make sure that female needs and aspirations are being noted and met. Within education, work, social groups and more, we can #InspireInclusion, not just on International Women’s Day. Ways of doing so include:
- Providing the tools for women and girls to have a quality education
- Encouraging girls to study previously male dominated areas, e.g. science.
- Making sure apprenticeships are there for women in previously male dominated industries
- Making sure that companies are recruiting and training women at the same rate as men
- Providing the training needed for management roles
- Ensure that girls and women everywhere are informed about health, including sexual health and able to make their own decisions
- Provide courses and suitable environments for girls and women to learn about empowerment and how to help themselves achieve their best throughout their lives
Imagine the future
Imagine a future without inequality. Where our children are celebrated for their skills and achievements, no matter their gender, race etc. Think what could be achieved. Now lets stop imagining and start working toward this future. Let’s #InspireInclusion in our children, the future generation on International Women’s Day.