This International Women’s Day celebrates the theme of #ChooseToChallenge, as from this challenge will come positive change. The power of International Woman’s Day is its ability to make us reflect, pause and consider the women who have supported, encouraged, inspired, and empowered us to be who we are today. International Women’s Day also focuses our attention on the pain and disadvantage that so many women continue to face in order to #ChooseToChallenge and bring about positive change.
I have reflected on those women who have very much shaped the person I am today. My parents continue to be my biggest inspiration and I live each day striving to reflect their courage and compassion which I witnessed from such a young age. My mother overcame a challenging childhood as the oldest sibling of four children living in poverty in a single parent family in a ‘single end’ tenement flat in Glasgow both during and after the Second World War. She also had to fight to overcome significant instances of serious depression during her adult life. Despite this, she was determined to support others in the family and local community to create a caring environment, one in which I felt safe, valued and able to thrive. I continue to miss her every day but am so thankful for the incredible inspiration she was to me.
I have always had a passionate interest in history and how particular events and individuals have shaped the world we live in today. Through my university studies and personal learning, I took such inspiration from women including Emily Pankhurst, Florence Nightingale, Anne Frank, Helen Keller, Marie Curie and countless others who rose to the challenge and worked selflessly in dangerous environments to make a difference and make our world a better place. In fact, Mother Teresa’s passion for overcoming poverty and injustice around the world fuelled my interest in playing my part which led me to my career in the voluntary sector.
Through my overseas aid work, I was witness to how women often bear the economic, social and emotional brunt of injustice and war. Through working for Concern after genocide in Rwanda, during civil war in Angola, and with people facing abject poverty in Bangladesh, I encountered so many women who challenged and overcame horrific experiences. Women who faced sexual exploitation, abuse and horrendous poverty and made unimaginable sacrifice to protect their children and families in every way possible. Their resilience to overcome, achieve and provide for their families and communities in order to create a better future for their children is both inspiring and incredibly humbling.
Through my work with many incredible charities across the UK, I have had the privilege of meeting women facing significant challenge and heartache. One young teenage woman, Francesca Mancini, stand outs particularly in my mind as she fought so valiantly throughout her cancer journey and displayed such courage and determination every day, even completing a 10K walk unaided for Beatson Cancer Charity six days before her tragic passing. She was, and remains, an incredible inspiration to me and I feel very thankful for having known her.
In my current role, I am lucky to work with so many brilliant women, from those in Fundraising, Marketing, Communications, Finance and HR to our Paramedics, Doctors, Operational support staff as well as my Executive Assistant, our founder Kate Chivers and our volunteers including our fantastic Chair, Helen Bowcock. These women are integral members of Team KSS and we could not achieve our purpose of saving lives and ensuring the best possible patient outcomes without their passion, dedication and their desire for excellence in all they do. I continue to be amazed by what we all achieve together.
For all the amazing women of the past, present and future, I choose to challenge preconceptions, gender bias and inequality in order to help create avenues in our world where women can rise, accomplish and flourish. The world is making progress, where women’s voices are being heard and people are beginning to listen more actively with Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize being a perfect example. But we need to continue to rise to the challenge. Let’s all play our part in creating a world where women feel safe, trusted, confident and valued no matter what the circumstances. Let’s #ChooseToChallenge.