A group that I find incredibly inspirational are the schoolgirls of Iran. After the barbaric murder of Mahsa Amini, women and girls in Iran congregated to amplify their voices and challenge the state’s tyranny. Anyone who speaks out against the government is risking their lives. Therefore, watching these young girls fight with such courage and strength for human rights, including many civil liberties which we in the UK take for granted, is incredible to see. One girl that stood out was Nika Shakarami. Videos of the teenager burning her headscarf circulated across the internet. This was to represent freedom and the right to choose how she wanted to express her religious beliefs. Nika’s life was brutally taken soon afterwards. She is a hero and her efforts to fight against an oppressive regime will not be forgotten. Women, Life, Freedom is a chant used by Iranian protestors in their bid for equal rights of the sexes.
Elected in 2019, Labour MP for Coventry South, Zarah Sultana, has shown to be a courageous politician who isn’t afraid to stand up for working people in parliament. A co-founder of Enough is Enough, a campaign launched in response to the cost of living crisis, her goals as an MP are to uplift those affected by raising salaries and cutting energy bills. She has also fought in parliament for a bill to extend free school meals to all schoolchildren. Zarah recently stood in solidarity with striking key workers fighting for pay rises. By standing with public sector workers, she is working to uplift industries who are primarily made up of women, working communities and people of colour.
I recently had lunch with an ex-national sales manager from a well-known beauty retailer based in Melbourne. She had worked for the company for 20 years, and managed and mentored thousands of store managers, mainly women. She had a great reputation for training, and it is clear she was trusted and loved by her peers. She has a wicked sense of humour and told me one of the first things she tells girls and women who have recently come back to work after giving birth was to ‘not leave their partner until the child has reached 4 years of age’. It made me really laugh, but it also had a tinge of sadness and reality to it. Until the moment I gave birth I was quite happily and comfortably sending work emails to DFS Hong Kong from my laptop (yes deluded and thank you epidural!). I think it’s safe to say Mitch and I were quite unprepared for what the next few years entailed.
Coming back into the workforce after giving birth is rather like juggling plates covered in slime: it’s a mixture of post-partum issues, sleep deprivation, feeling unattractive, guilt for leaving the most important people in the world to you, and then smiling sweetly at colleagues when they ask you if you are considering having another one.
Working with many of the fashion and beauty suppliers across Australia, I have witnessed time and time again a large group of women at a middle-management level, but when we are awarded a new business appointment to meet the COO or CEO, it’s a man, and even more frequently in Australia, it may need to be a man with experience from the UK or the US, from an ‘amazing innovative retailer’ like Aldi or Waitrose because they would be so ‘much more experienced for the role’. Experience in selling cabbages and having a penis naturally makes them better than any applicant here to sit at the helm of a womenswear intimates empire, so it seems.
Living in Australia since 2004, I’ve experienced my fair share of misogynists both in person in my career and in the news. Tony Abbott becoming Prime Minister was particularly unpleasant. Last month the Taliban banned all women from using contraception, and the reversal of the Roe vs Wade ruling in the US last year, along with Iran’s murder of Mahsa Amini for failing to fully cover her hair, have led to unprecedented uprisings. These uprisings will continue and become stronger. What seems to be changing when we study our children’s behaviours is that this is not so much a gender war any longer, it’s a human rights issue – whatever your race, gender or sexual orientation. This is empowering us to become braver, question what we watch, how we communicate and what we let slide.
Ask about a company’s stance on gender pay equality at a job interview – why not, for God’s sake? It will help them in the longer term if they don’t have one. Women are not interested in taking over the world, they are too busy fighting for equal rights.
For anyone needing postpartum help or just a good laugh at the juggle of parenthood:#beyondthebump podcast
For anyone wanting to be inspired by feminist news: #cheekmedia.co
Some inspirational Aussie people and sites to follow to embrace equity: #jillstark #gracetamefoundation #themancave-au
As a country, we rarely talk about the impact of the British Empire on marginalised groups (I highly recommend Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera for a fascinating and uncomfortable overview of our nation’s colonial history). And it is often considered taboo to do so because it means acknowledging unsavoury parts of our nation’s history, which doesn’t sit well with many people.
In light of International Women’s Day, I wanted to shine a light on Igbo women activists who stood up to colonial rule in Nigeria. Between 1885 and 1960, Nigeria was proclaimed as a British colony, but Igbo women subtly resisted through petitioning their colonisers, showing skill and determination in the face of aggressive power dynamics:
‘Petitioning allowed women to occupy [as much as possible] colonial spaces that were constructed as quintessentially male. Since they occupied substantially diminished roles, Igbo women evolved their roles into a semblance of their pre-colonial expressions of political and socio-economic power. By petitioning, they could be heard in the corridors of power that were otherwise unapproachable to them. Sometimes they managed to get the upper levels of colonial government to address a manifest wrong.’ Bright Alozie, lecturer in history, West Virginia University.
You can read more about Igbo women who were already hugely progressive before colonisation here. These women serve as a reminder to us that we should never take for granted our right to protest, petition and vote, as these are some of the most powerful tools we possess to effect real change in a patriarchal society.
There was a time when people thought women were inferior to men. They didn’t go to school but instead learned how to cook and clean because that was all that was considered important in a woman’s life. A wife would wait for her husband to come home from work and serve him, as once they were married, she was an object to him; he owned her! As a mother she not only had to sacrifice her body but sacrifice her life, only to be made to do it again if it wasn’t the superior gender.
The first victory of the 20th century was that women won the right to the 19th amendment. Men had the right to vote handed to them on a plate, whereas women had to fight, suffer, and protest through the suffragettes, which led them to be imprisoned. It wasn’t officially until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women over the age of 21 in the UK were able to vote.
During World War II, women finally had the opportunity not only to help around the house but also in society, although they weren’t allowed on the front line as they were seen as weak and vulnerable. They were given war-time jobs such as mechanics, engineers and factory workers. But when the men returned from war, they were relegated back to their house chores.
Today, there are still times when women are seen as inferior; in 2007, Wimbledon became the last of the four major tennis tournaments to award equal prize money for women. As a girl growing up in the 21st century I am still told by people to ‘get back to the kitchen’ or if I’m making food, that I am ‘in my natural habitat’. This is seen as a joke to them and they expect us to laugh. Thankfully, growing up in my household, we are all given equal chores, and I am reminded that both my parents contribute equally, whether that be into the bank account or onto the table. I am also constantly encouraged to work hard so I can be an independent, self-sufficient woman.
Kate had been a doctor for four years and worked on the respiratory ward throughout the Covid pandemic. ‘I lost count of how many people I witnessed die; in fact, I don’t wish to remember.’
She does remember, though, and that’s part of the problem. The impact on the mental health of NHS staff is alarming. Staff sickness has never been so high – people are beyond burnt out, and although support is available, there lingers a stigma around mental health issues within the NHS.
There has also been a palpable shift in public support since the pandemic. ‘Doctors are now made out to be villains, thanks to this government and the media portraying us as entitled and greedy.’
At a time when mental health issues are rampant, and nurses are having to turn to foodbanks, you have to wonder how did we go from clapping for our NHS to handing out meal vouchers?
Junior doctors have had a real-terms pay cut of 26% since 2008, and the conditions they are working under have never been so poor. ‘After working tirelessly through a national pandemic, the NHS is now almost at breaking point, and something needs to change.’
First aired in August last year, Romesh Ranganathan dedicated this episode to women in hip hop. This music genre has a chequered past with misogyny and homophobia as just a start. As a fan of this genre, I find myself in a juxtaposition of loving the sound but being at complete odds with many of the lyrics and views of the artists. Here is an hour of Hip Hop I would not be ashamed to play out loud, and I would encourage you all to read this article on “Fashioning power and gender in Hip Hop” written by Angela Tate, Curator of Women's History at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.
‘Let's finally put aside any idea that the genre is a boy’s club as Radio 1 DJ and former Strictly contestant, Clara Amfo joins Romesh to chat about some of the finest women rappers out there - from Queen Latifah to Megan Thee Stallion to Little Simz. Clara sneaks round the bounce to return for the Sounds Afterparty and takes control of the playlist - selecting some lesser known bangers from greats like Eve and Lisa 'Left Eye’ Lopes, then lays out her hot tips for the future’
This article is a special edition of our Diversity & Inclusion work at The Future Laboratory. Explore our work on D&I on our blog and discover what steps we are taking to make a better tomorrow happen, for everyone.
Alternatively, join LS:N Global where members get full access to our Intersectionality series.