Monday 8 March 2021 marks International Women's Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women's achievements or rally for women's equality. This is an annual celebration that commemorates the history and achievements of women and aims to raise awareness about women's equality, and a call to action for accelerating gender parity. It is an opportunity for women to come together, to share experiences, and for everyone to recognise and appreciate the achievements of Women.
Raising awareness about Women's equality is crucial. This year IWD is being celebrated against a backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent Government Select Committee Report found that ‘inequality problems have been made worse for many women during the pandemic’ and that ‘gender disparities were ignored’.
CACT recognises that achieving equality requires hard work and commitment, and for us to be honest with ourselves and each other; it requires us to meaningfully engage, connect, reach out and listen to all staff and to all participants. We are committed to raising awareness, as well as recognising the outstanding contributions that Women continue to make to the work we deliver.
Read below some testimonies from CACT staff members.
Becky, CACT mentor
My parents placed a high value on education and it was education that helped ‘open doors’. I went to a School that believed and encouraged all pupils with their ethos of enrichment and aspirations, especially for young females, which was instrumental in shaping my life. My first experience of inequality was felt when I was just 15 years old. I was a twin and my twin was a boy, indeed he was the only boy in the family apart from my father. We were both excited to stay out late but my father wanted me in earlier! I felt this was unjust and simply said, ‘what about dads keeping their boys in, then all we girls can stay out late’. I cannot remember what happened but I can remember feeling utterly let down. The second incident involved my father again. I had finished my ‘A’ Levels and he had been preparing and painting the outside of the house. I had spent my childhood watching and following my father and helping him as I loved all things physical and practical. I offered to continue with the painting while he went to work but was told ‘girls are not cut out for this sort of work’! I responded by waiting until he went to work, got the paint and brushes I needed, climbed the scaffolding and started to apply the undercoat. I remained there until my father returned from work, he was surprised at what I had achieved, gave me advice and allowed me to continue.
I felt the impact of inequality and the confusion of ‘what is wrong with me’; only to realise, it was merely because ‘I am a girl.
The third experience happened once I qualified as a PE Teacher, in my second year I was encouraged by the Head of PE; Brian and another colleague Karen to apply for the role of Head of PE; Brian was moving to another position within the school. I remember feeling so supported by these 2 members of staff and actually got the job after a tough interview. I was to become the first female head of PE in South Yorkshire but hit initial controversy when 1 of the male applicants made a complaint stating, ‘that a Head of PE should always be a male role’. I taught at the school for 25 years and helped create and shape a school which worked hard to support all and address issues of inequality; we even changed the colour in the boys and girls changing rooms from blue and pink to a neutral yellow and developed a curriculum that represented greater choice and equality of access for all. When I became Director of Sport Health and Well-Being in 2009, we worked hard to spread this message across the school.
As a 52-year-old I prepared to paint the house I shared with my partner, all 5 floors, scaffolding arrived and this time it was not just the men saying it was not safe, disappointingly, my partner and a significant number of my female friends also disapproved! I carried on completing the task but never really got the recognition I felt my efforts deserved considering their disapproval!
It is possible to overcome inequalities as an individual and to work together with others to help overcome them on a larger scale but until we can ‘unpick’ the ‘root’ of inequality, which I feel exists within our culture and society, much of it hidden out of direct view and some of it coming from places you simply do not expect, we will continue to let down and our society will fail to be as ‘rich’ as it could or should be.
Fatima, Young Greenwich Youth Worker
International Women’s Day is important. It’s a chance to come together and recognise the incredible achievements of women. Throughout history, women have influenced the human experience and change our world, culturally, socially and politically. We use this day to honour and celebrate women. I would say to young women if they want to join my role of youth worker, I would recommend starting volunteering. The best part of my job is that I can create activities and experiences to show equality for everyone, for example, if a young lady wants to have a pamper day, they have their own choice to choose the activities for the day.
Marilyn, CACT Trustee
Why is it important to celebrate International Women’s Day?
To profile the significance of women's social, economic, cultural and political achievements locally, nationally and globally at all levels. It is truly inspirational to witness Amanda Gorman, a young black poet, speaking at Joe Biden's inauguration, the appointment of Kristalina Georgieva as the new IMF managing director, followed this week by Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala leading the WTO.
What’s the best part of your role?
Working with others - combining our expertise, talents and skills - to secure the best possible well-being for all who live within our local communities - this includes active listening, learning and enabling others to lead their lives successfully and support those in most need - creating a truly inclusive experience which celebrates diversity. Zero tolerance permeates everything we do.
What would you say to young women who would like to get into your line of work?
Show perseverance and determination, invest in building strong professional relationships and exemplify your beliefs and vision - be a positive role model.
How would you inspire the next generation to challenge gender inequality?
The 2021 theme for International Women's Day is 'Choose to Challenge' - do what you feel, say it! We all have a responsibility for our actions. Get engaged - be alert by calling out gender bias and inequality - contributing to our collective struggle to bring about lasting change.
Georgie, NCS Programme Officer
It is good to celebrate international women’s day as it allows people to recognise what amazing and inspiring female role models there are out there.
The best part of my job is seeing the amount of positive impact made not just by myself, but everyone who works for CACT, through the multi programs and events we run. Seeing young people aged 15-17 grow individually and as a team through participation on our NCS programmes and develop skills and confidence to challenge themselves to achieve their personal targets for their future. I would suggest that they should take up every opportunity thrown their way to expand their knowledge and skills needed to become the best they can be. I would advise that everyone should treat each other equally and not to feel pressured to face a challenge that may be out of their comfort zone.