Every year on March 8th, we mark International Women’s Day to recognise and celebrate the often-overlooked social, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. It’s also an important day to call for further effort to be made in the fight for gender equality.
International Women’s Day has been celebrated in one form or another for over 100 years, with more than a million women and men attending the first official rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland in 1911.
This year’s theme is #BreaktheBias. Sexism, prejudice and biased attitudes about women’s abilities hold women back in the workplace and in life and challenging and defeating these attitudes – breaking the bias – is vital for us to level the playing field.
British Women Breaking the Bias in the 2020s
Army officer Preet Chandi became the first woman of colour to complete a solo expedition across Antarctica in early January this year. She trained for two years to prepare herself for the journey, in which she dragged a 90kg sled by herself and endured 60 mph winds and temperatures of -50 degrees Celsius.
“The more you do, the more you realise you’re capable of,” Preet says on her website. With her amazing journey, she’s shown that anyone can do whatever they set their mind to, no matter what they look like. In a speech to a school, Preet said “when I first googled [Antarctica] I couldn’t see anyone who’d been there that looked like me… when I looked a few weeks ago, I saw myself.”
Preet has launched an Adventure Grant charity fund for girls conducting unusual challenges, helping even more women #BreaktheBias.
Emma Raducanu’s historic win at the US Open Women’s Singles Final was not only the first win by a British woman wince 1977, but the first EVER win of a Grand Slam title in modern tennis by a player who’d advanced all the way to the final from the very first rounds – rather than being ‘seeded’ into the competition at a later stage based on world ranking, as is custom with high-level players.
She was also one of the youngest players to ever qualify for the final, as well as the first to do it without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014. All in all, she gave a truly world-class performance, ending the year ranked 23rd in the world – a meteoric rise from the mid-300s.
Soma Sara has been battling rape culture in school and in society with her collaborative project Everyone’s Invited. The project allows young people to share testimonies of their experiences with sexual harassment and abuse, calling attention to the tragic prevalence of these stories and sparking an important national conversation.
The power Soma Sara has been giving back to survivors through her project has been immensely valuable, with many people feeling comfortable enough to share their feelings and experiences in a safe space for the first time, and others simply being comforted by the idea they’re not alone.
“Everyone needs to take part if we want to bring about real and meaningful change,” says Soma Sara. “Keep talking, keep learning, keep sharing.” With women like Soma Sara joining the conversation, change feels inevitable.
The youngest professional skateboarder in the world finally got the chance to represent Great Britain at the delayed Tokyo Olympics in July 2021, becoming Britain’s youngest medal winner when she took Bronze in her event. Going on to win gold at the X Games later on in the year and becoming the first female to land a frontside 540 in competition, Sky Brown has a bright future ahead of her.
Dame Sarah Gilbert’s work as a Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford has had an impact on a global scale in the past few years.
Her early research involved Malaria, but after becoming a professor she began developing new flu vaccines. She was on the front lines of development when she received news of a new Coronavirus through ProMED – the program for monitoring emerging diseases – and had a prototype ready within two weeks.
As of January 2022, more than 2.5 billion doses of the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine have been delivered to more than 150 countries.
Here and Now 365 on International Women's Day
A Visit from the Brahma Kumaris
A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to receive a visit at our office from the Brahma Kumaris and learn a little about their organisation – a movement led entirely by women.
Sister Jayanti, head of the Brahma Kumaris in the UK, lead us through a short calming meditation session as an example of their teachings.
Our new campaign for Dabur focuses on celebrating women with visible differences. Women with scars, birthmarks, and other conditions that make them look different are massively under-represented in the South Asian fashion and beauty industry, and we are working to change this with Vatika’s new #BEVisible campaign this International Women’s Day and beyond.
Vatika are sharing six real stories from South Asian women living with visible differences, giving them a platform to speak about the difficulties they’ve faced in their lives, as well as their journeys towards celebrating and honouring their differences.