Why is it Important That we Celebrate Women?

“Behind every successful man, there is a woman.”  This proverb, that may have an allegorical message behind its odd appearance, has literal meanings.  It can imply that a woman plays a significant role when a man succeeds, can bring forward a great man and is just as powerful.  I write this not as a feminist – as all genders should be celebrated equally – but as a person who is constantly astounded by the resourcefulness and strength of those women who have been instrumental in history, despite a repressive world.

International Women’s Day falls on 8 March each year across the world.  It is a day to recognise female achievement and encourage everyone to stand up for women’s rights and gender equality.  This means that regardless of gender, everyone should be granted the same rights, privileges and opportunities as everyone else.  Throughout history, women have had to fight for the freedom and rights we enjoy today.  The discrimination women have faced is profound; women were unable to serve on a jury or as a magistrate, control their own money, become an accountant or lawyer, sit in the House of Lords or report marital rape – among other limitations and disadvantages.  The fight for equality still continues today, with the aspiration for women to have the same opportunities as men and receive equal pay.

So why celebrate women?  The idea ‘to celebrate’ something is to honour, give praise and recognition.  If we start with basic biology, even today with scientific boundaries being broken and new lifechanging medical discoveries, we cannot replace the wonders of the female body nurturing a life growing inside her from conception to birth.  With over 130 million babies born in the world per year, that is 130 million amazing women.  The influence of women in a family unit has always been at the forefront of a woman’s importance, and despite its historical limitations, it is something that should be celebrated.  A woman is someone who contributes significantly to a family or individual’s wellbeing – particularly empathetically, whether it be caring for someone or holding the family unit together throughout life’s challenges.  Effortless multitasking is a skill learnt quickly for survival in this challenging world and a woman’s energy and adaptability in this competency is insurmountable.  As aforementioned, a woman’s worth cannot only be measured by her value in the home but also in the great achievements she can accomplish when given opportunities.

To fully celebrate women, we need to understand the journey of women.  Historically, women were made to stay at home with the family or conduct jobs of lesser standing but despite the challenges of societal norms, many great women have made a fundamental difference in our world.  Within our School community, in the early 1800s, Marie-Anne Dutertre fought for the right to be educated and became one of the founding sisters of the Religious of Christian Education, who went on to open Farnborough Hill in 1889.  To have to fight for an education is unthinkable in our society today.  In 1860, Florence Nightingale established the first secular nursing school and helped to improve healthcare in the United Kingdom; in 1903, Marie Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize with her pioneering work in radioactivity; Ada Lovelace was the first person on record to acknowledge the capability of computers and provide the first example of computer programming; Marie Stopes founded the first birth control clinic in the UK and Mother Teresa is considered one of the greatest humanitarians of the twentieth century. The list of influential women goes on.  If it were not for the suffragettes over 100 years ago we may not be voting in the UK today.  With only half the population being able to vote, this meant all the political decisions, including those affecting women, were made by men.  In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women’s Social and Political Union which organised the UK suffragette movement and helped women win the right to vote.  There were years of protests, rallies and strikes with many women arrested, jailed and injured.  In response to the First World War, the suffragettes shifted their campaign to encourage women’s involvement in the war effort.  Women took on jobs that they were previously excluded from, like working as mechanics and drivers, and in 1928, women over 21 were able to vote and achieved the same voting rights as men.  Once women were given the right to vote, a more gender balanced world began to evolve.  It was and is the immense bravery of women that stood up to this inequality that we should celebrate.  Despite great strides made in international rights movements over many years, the sad fact still remains that gender bias creates huge barriers for women across the world who are not given the same opportunities to go to work, attend university or even to vote.

Even now we have to constantly challenge those traditional views of women and fight inequalities in the workplace such as the gender pay gap. Also access to job opportunities traditionally taken by men.  In 1928 Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean alone and yet, in 2022, of 11,000 pilots in the US air force today, only 6% are women. It is still far too few women that have jobs in strategic military positions and government, with only two female Prime Ministers in UK history.

Today we are fortunate to live in a time and place where everyone is entitled to an education, healthcare and to get a job.  However, inequality still exists and plays out in our everyday life through stereotype.  Let us celebrate everyone who makes or has made a difference in this world and are doing everything they can to accelerate gender parity.

Annie (11ω)