By Romilly Greenhill, ONE UK Country Director
In June 1911, my great-grandmother Violet Clark joined the suffrage coronation procession, which brought together women’s groups large and small, militant and constitutionalist, in ‘one grand consciousness raising display.’ The march had impact – just seven years later, in 1918, some women were given the vote. This was the result of the efforts of ordinary women, like my great-grandmother, who came together to call for a better world.
One hundred years later, ordinary women are still coming together to call for justice and equality. They campaign for better rights for women and girls in the UK – an important effort that has been given stronger impetus by the ‘MeToo’ and ‘TimesUp’ movements. But we also know that, while gender discrimination affects us all, it hits women and girls in developing countries hardest. Poverty is sexist: at least 155 countries around the world have laws that limit women’s economic opportunities, and thirty-nine thousand girls under the age of 18 become child brides every day. This is why so many women in the UK are campaigning, not just for our own rights, but also for the rights of other women around the world.
ONE asked our members to nominate such ‘inspirational international women’ and we were overwhelmed by the response. Members nominated their friends and relatives from all across the country: women who write letters to their MP; volunteer in their local charity shop or overseas; or organise bake-sales in support of international development charities.
These are everyday heroes, who do this work, not for glamour or money, but because it is the right thing to do.
Women like Violet, who makes reusable sanitary towels for women to escape period poverty.
Women like school teacher Debbie, who has taught hundreds of children in Portsmouth about the Global Goals, and twinned her students up with a school in Gambia.
Women like former neonatal nurse Angela, who provides essential medicines to support safer births in Africa.
Women like doctor Patricia, who has supported HIV positive mothers to give birth to HIV negative babies in Ghana.
Women like Samantha and Eleanor, recently returned from volunteering overseas.
Watch the video below to hear their stories:
These are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of women up and down the country who are doing this work, day in, day out. All of these women recently came to a ONE campaign reception in Parliament to celebrate their work and receive recognition from their local MP.
So, in an age of political turbulence, of anxiety about social media, climate change, economic hardship and so much else, I want International Women’s Day 2018 to be a day to celebrate. To celebrate the work that women do, day in day out, because they can understand how frightened a mother must be giving birth without the right drugs available, how undignified a woman’s life must be without the right sanitary protection, what a waste of potential it is for a girl to go without schooling or to be married too young. These everyday heroes deserve their own moment of recognition this International Women’s Day.
If you believe that none of us are equal until all of us are equal, join the movement for women and girls EVERYWHERE.