Women being bold

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Today is that day when we specifically take time to celebrate all that women have achieved socially, economically, culturally and politically. Even in my lifetime so much has changed and I enjoy being able to celebrate that fact. I have been thrilled to see women who have, over many decades, helped to forge forward new discoveries and initiatives being celebrated too within the media (I think, for example, of recent films such as Hidden Figures).

However, there is so much still to be done. And so much inequality in so many areas too. I shudder when I think of the amount of gender violence that still occurs around the world. I feel sick when I think of young girls still being subjected to genital mutilation and women simply accepting daily violence from their husbands as they don’t see any way out. This year’s hashtag for IWD is #BeBoldForChange. Each one of us, in our own spheres of influence, can be courageous and bold. But can we punch above the line and stand up for what we know is right? Can we add our voices to all those saying enough is enough, it’s time for change? I try to write about such issues of inequality whenever I can, and am so grateful that I get to work for charities that are doing something practically, on the ground, to help women trapped in vicious cycles. But a day like today causes me to stop and ponder: am I doing enough? What else could I do?

As a Christian I firmly believe that God is for women. He champions us, loves us, cherishes us;  He shows us how we should be treated – and how we should treat others. May we always look to Him for guidance and openly receive His unending love, grace and mercy. May we listen when He prompts us to reach out, perhaps beyond our comfort zones, to help those who are unable to help themselves.

Celebrating girls around the world

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My daughter having fun and running free with her brother 🙂 

Today is International Day of the Girl Child, and the theme for this year is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”. As UN Women explains, this is ‘a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analysing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data.’

One of the reasons that stands in the way of girls making progress is a lack of education. When I realised that today is the Day of the Girl, I immediately thought of my daughter: how much I love her and how proud I am of her. She is so fortunate because she is given free access to education. She is at the point this year of choosing secondary schools and our area is one in which competition is fierce and the grammar schools, in particular, attract applicants from miles away. Some of the comprehensives, as well as the grammars, have entrance exams and so my daughter has been juggling various tests and auditions alongside her usual school work. She has had week after week of study and exams – and has done amazingly well under the pressure. I have felt so keenly how unfair the system is, especially when other counties across England have no such approach. But I have also been proud of how my daughter has risen to the challenge and met every new obstacle with a gritty determination.

I want my daughter to know that she is loved for who she is – not for how she performs in tests. But I also want her to know what a privilege it is to be educated freely. I want her eyes to be open to the plight of other girls her age around the world. In developing countries (excluding China), one in every three girls is married before reaching the age of 18. This stunts their progress, not just because child marriage is often followed by pregnancy – even if a girl is not yet physically or mentally ready. Every day, over 20,000 girls under age 18 give birth in developing countries – over 7 million a year.

The statistics are still horrifying and I long for the day when they won’t be, remembering soberly that each number stands for a girl’s life. Today I simply want to stand alongside UN Women’s statement: ‘On the International Day of the Girl Child, we stand with the global community to support girls’ progress everywhere. Let girls be girls.’ They are the women of the future – let us celebrate them not just today, but by doing all we can to support organisations that are seeking to educate and empower girls right around the world.

* Stats taken from UN Women.

International Women’s Day

I love marking International Women’s Day each year because I feel my life is enriched and challenged by the women I not only have around me but those that I either read or write about around the world too. This year, I’ve created an acrostic poem to highlight some of the qualities I find truly inspiring about women in the world today.

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Incredible strength of character;

Not afraid to speak their minds;

Tough on the outside, but tender-hearted too,

Enriching the lives of others by what they do.

Reality for so many is not what it should be,

Never allowed to choose – to be free.

At times I ache for women trapped in unjust lives,

Terrified for them – and feeling helpless besides.

In their response to life they inspire me:

Once more facing the day with determination;

Not allowing circumstances to dominate;

Always responding with dignity;

Loving those around them with such grace and mercy.

 

Women around the world

Overcoming hardship, injustice and prejudice daily.

My own world is cossetted by comparison – but still I face obstacles;

Endurance and education is key for us all.

Not settling but pushing ourselves to go far;

Solid faith in who we are.

 

Don’t ever stop believing in yourself,

Always aim high – you have what it takes to see it through;

Your very existence spurs me on to be the best I can be too.

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