Today is International Women’s Day – celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and marking a call-to-action: #BreakTheBias. Here, women in this part of the region offer their powerful and positive messages
Elma Glasgow is a PR Consultant for brands making a positive impact on the world, and is Co-director of Aspire Black Suffolk CIC:
The theme of International Women’s Day is #Breakthebias. Being a woman of colour, I know what it’s like to face bias in addition to my gender and sex. We have to handle extra trauma and stress in white majority countries as a result of racism of all kinds. As women, we’re really up against it. Bias exists in every area of life, but women of colour are often forgotten in addressing this imbalance. Because of this neglect and lived experience, we are very resilient.
We’ve each developed a toolkit of tactics that we rely on to deal with prejudice. This includes neglect in Black women’s health care (I’ve heard of medical students asking if Black skin is thicker than white, and medical professionals assuming Black women have a higher pain threshold), a much lower glass ceiling for Black women at work, and assumptions that we’re overly sexual and aggressive. I could go on.
I’ll end this on a positive note and with calls to action: for women of colour to continue to fight against #Breakthebias but also take care of their wellbeing; and for people of all genders and other ethnicities to support us through allyship.
Sophie Leone is the author of The Book of Revelations:
A reflection on International Women’s Day.
On this day, how do you celebrate yourself? Every day, how do you honour yourself?
How do you honour your needs, your tears, your joys, your desires?
This is not just a day for a day’s sake. This is our every day.
How do you commit to yourself? How do you choose yourself?
Do you know when you are saying yes to you and when you are saying no?
Woman, you are the key.
The start, the finish, the creatrix, the magic.
Woman, you are enough.
Woman, with your crazy, with your ‘irrational’ and your ‘emotional’ and your cycles, I celebrate you.
Only when you begin to celebrate yourself instead of revering the others, will we be on our way to rebalancing the energies of this planet.
In my world and my visions, we don’t pretend that we are sisters. We are so in tune, so safe and secure with our own Oneness that we stand firmly grounded, shoulder to shoulder with another woman, whether or not she is engaged in a similar purpose to ours.
We stand truly united, because we have committed to fall in love with our SELVES so much that we feel our infinity and our power to change this land.
To this, I commit, every day of the year.
A joint message from Rosie’s Plaques, the Norwich-based collective making plaques to commemorate hidden women’s stories:
We Rosies are known for being profane and opinionated, taking our inspiration from women who were thrown out of Norwich Friends Meeting House in the 17th Century for just such (unspecified!) behaviour. We started making our guerrilla blue plaques celebrating the unsung women and women’s spaces and events of Norwich back in 2019. Nothing we’ve seen since then has made us any less opinionated. Nothing has stopped us feeling angry or that we still have work to do. Only this week Bristol Cathedral, which has a plaque commemorating the first women deacons who were ordained there in 1998, recognised that it might have been a mistake to name only the (male) Bishop and Dean who performed the service. At last, the women priests themselves are being named. This is what we do too – pull the women out from behind the men, shine a light on those hidden corners where women are changing the world, in the home, the family, the community, the workplace, and the global stage. While women are constantly being defined as wives, daughters, and mothers we will not stop. While women are described as passive victims of male violence we will not stop. Until women claim their rightful public space – we will not stop.
The last two years have highlighted on a personal note how grateful I am for the strong and compassionate women in my life. IWD is such an important day to recognise that women who typically, although not always, have the carer roles and often juggle that with careers. Today is a day to celebrate women and stand together.
Samantha Grainger is a certified hypnotherapy specialist and founder of Free the Mind:
International women’s day is a day to celebrate all that is good about women. We should celebrate how far we have come in the world. I am celebrating my own achievements in business. I would like to encourage all women to follow their dreams and passions. We need to provide our younger generation with strong, motivated role models. It’s amazing to see some of the women in Ukraine supporting the crisis, and fighting for their country.
Nichola West is Director of the Norfolk Institute of Performing Arts and an Alumni of Woman of the Year:
I am marking the day by connecting with international colleagues in the performing arts world, people I have worked alongside, given workshops for and examined. International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on how far women have come and the fight we continue to pursue for equality, respect and opportunity. I have been fortunate in my career to have travelled the world teaching, presenting seminars, examining and collaborating with major international organisation. This has also given me the opportunity to connect and become friends with other like minded and determined women who often succeed regardless of barriers imposed on them due to their sex. I am marking the day by taking two hours out of my crazy schedule to text, call or face time these wonderful ladies and remind them how amazing they are. How I value their friendship and respect their hard work, they set an inspiring example to the next generation of women. A small gesture but on this special day it is good to take time to stop, reflect and communicate. It is a day I will not think of a just for women. My husband for the past 30 years has told me if women ruled the world there would be no wars, quite a statement given the situation of the world today. I respect men who are also championing the way forward for equality and how we as humans should not need to ask a person what sex they are, it should make no difference.
Samantha Elmhirst is an illustrator and founder of Living Art:
I recently watched the Helen Reddy biographic film and ever since then her powerful anthem ‘I Am Woman’ has been an ear worm. I think I might just steal some of the lyrics here as my personal message:
Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman
At the moment I think these words really resonate now more than ever – and as the Ukraine is uppermost in my mind, then tomorrow I will mark it by wishing strength and invincibility to all women everywhere, and especially those affected by this war.
Today I will be working all day alongside some awesome female art and design lecturers, teaching the next generation of creative women (and men too!). Then on Saturday, After Hours Collective is hosting an exhibition in Ipswich at Ronin Body Arts – a collaboration with Led Creatives. It is an all female exhibition, with a diverse mix of amateur and professional artists. It’s titled ‘Fierce Colour’ and we can’t wait! So many talented female artists in Suffolk and we are super proud to work alongside, support and promote them.
I’ll be marking International Women’s Day by co-hosting a workshop for women themed around finding your goals, following them fearlessly, and freeing your potential. I am passionate about supporting and empowering women, and our workshop is raising funds for Women’s Aid. So often what holds us back is our own thinking – yet the truth is that our potential is limitless. I have been empowered and supported by women throughout my life who have helped me to achieve my dreams. And, I have my daughter to thank for unleashing my courage; being her mum made me brave. I want to be a role model for her, I want her to know that anything is possible. As it is for all of us.
Karen Turner is an artist about to exhibit at The Other Art Fair in London, from March 17-20:
My work focuses on unconventional body types and the ways in which women are so often judged on their physical appearance. I aim to challenge those conventions, and so the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day really resonates with me. It reminds us all to #breakthebias and to challenge stereotypes and discrimination wherever we see them. Happy International Women’s Day!
I’d like every woman today who can, to take a moment to close their eyes, and just focus within for a few minutes. Just breathe deeply and tune into their infinite brilliance. Women are pushing themselves so hard, and often lose touch with their true self, their innate wisdom, connection to nature and their true desires. I’m going to take a moment to also think about all the women in the world today who are in struggle, and send them my love. I feel very fortunate to have the life and freedoms I do.
My heart is with Ukrainian women today. They need our love and support today, and will need it in the coming weeks, months and years as they piece their lives back together. I can’t imagine what they are going through.
Back at home in the UK I want to keep the conversation about menopause and perimenopause going. It’s affecting so many women, at work and in their relationships. If you are suffering please ask for help. Check out the free Balance app from Dr Louise Newson.
We all know incredible women who have achieved the most amazing things. Those who have overcome hardship, trauma, financial difficulties and emotional challenges to achieve success. For me, IWD is about celebrating ALL women who are incredible on a daily basis. Those who struggle to make ends meet, but just keep going. Those who get through each day juggling work and family. Those who care for extended family. Those who continually pick themselves up when they get knocked down. Those women who are absolutely keeping it real. These are the women that I believe we should celebrate. Success doesn’t always equate to financial value. Success if friendship, kindness, knowing your purpose and achieving your goals. It’s about having a positive mindset and doing the best you can on a daily basis. Women supporting women. Empowering each other. Surrounding yourself with likeminded mama’s who have got your back and don’t pass judgement, but instead, raise you up to be the best you can be. We set an example to our daughters to be the next generation of empowered women who can achieve anything they set their mind to. I continue to be in full admiration for all the phenomenal women I know who achieve amazing things every day.
Laura Locke organised WAMfest Felixstowe (Women Arts Music) in September 2021 and ran a sequel and celebration of International Women’s Day on Saturday, March 5:
Since working as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Suffolk and in my work in the media and as an event manager I have been so aware of the incredible women that shore up our society and our world. Women are the beating heart of the world. I am often told that our efforts and passion for women’s rights are misguided and unneeded now. Not at all. The battle is still happening and the passion is what keeps us driving to ensure that all women can have choice not just those with privilege. #BreaktheBias
Pippa Lain-Smith and Hannah Freeman are the team behind Plain Speaking PR, key partners of Folk Features:
As someone who has been running a small business in the UK for more than 15 years, is married to a good man, has an (almost) teenage son, and who is relatively financially secure, I’m doing okay as a woman in 2022. And while I’m all for celebrating the achievements of women, I do have mixed feelings about International Women’s Day. I am so aware that there are many women are less fortunate than me and I’m angry at the way women and girls are so often treated. From disparity in wages and the lack of female representation in boardrooms and in politics, to the fact that we still can’t walk home feeling safe or choose an outfit without first anticipating how we’ll be judged on it. Sadder still, there are women throughout the world who still have absolutely no rights: little girls who are subjected to FGM, children forced into marriage, daughters given no access to education. And these matters – inequalities at best, horrors at worst – are simply not acceptable in 2022. We must strive for women and girls to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. So, while I’m all for celebrating women, as entrepreneurs, as successful business owners, as talented colleagues, skilled sports people and inspirational people, shouldn’t we also use this day to highlight the wrongs and deep-rooted inequalities still faced by so many women and girls around the globe?
While I love to see all the amazing stories flood the news and social media on International Women’s Day, it also makes me slightly mad that we still need it. In 2022! Until we live in a truly equitable world, IWD is a necessity. This year’s theme is Break the Bias, and there are steps we can all take to challenge the stereotypes and labels faced by women every day. Recognising bias exists is the first step. Do you see it and hear it in your workplace? Do you hear female colleagues being labelled as ‘bossy’ when being assertive? Or ‘too emotional’? Would that language be directed at a male employee? Do we call it out enough? International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate and share stories of inspiring women. But it also needs to run deeper. With proactive steps and actions taken. My hope is that IWD inspires more businesses to reflect, think and plan for how they can break the bias in the workplace. Be it to achieve equal pay or to ensure more women are elevated to positions of power in their organisation and wider industry. With equal representation and more female voices heard, the impact of IWD can continue each and every day, to ensure the work is delivered to really break the bias. I hope, one day, International Women’s Day will be recorded to the history books. But for now, let’s use it as a platform to celebrate, but more importantly, to keep the wheels of change moving on.
Featured image: Artwork by Lizzie Musson, one of the 23 female artists involved in Fierce Colour, launching at 7.30pm on Saturday March 12, at Ronin Body Arts, Ipswich. Also, check out SOPHIE. Mistress of Art’s taboo-shattering ‘My SELF(ish) Portrait Gallery show‘, which opens today and runs until March 13 at Ballroom Arts, Courtyard Gallery, High Street, Aldeburgh.