International Women’s Day Choose to Challenge

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘choose to challenge’ and as I sit here thinking of this there are so many challenges that come to mind. Women everywhere have had to challenge systems and expectations in order to live their lives. 

I’m thinking of:

  • Malala Yousafzai who challenged the traditional view of girls’ education in Pakistan. 
  • Brene Brown who is prepared to have those difficult conversations around shame and race.
  • Baroness Doreen Lawrence who fought for justice after the murder of her son Stephen – challenging the persistence of institutional racism. 
  • US Vice President Kamala Harris for daringly running for President. 
  • The Duchess of Sussex, Megan Markle, who in trying to stay sane and make a positive difference, is seen as challenging the Monarchy. 
  • Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, Beyonce Knowles, Naomi Campbell and Charlene White for forging their own path.
  • The many sisters, daughters, wives and mothers facing daily challenges.
Photo by Ibadah Mimpi via Pexels and Canva

Choosing to challenge is not an easy decision, there is often a cost. I know for myself and from my work as a counsellor that the pain of not challenging needs to be almost unbearable, so that challenging is seen as the best option. Few people challenge without cause. More often people adjust to suffering until they become unwell.

In my book, Black Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, 22 Stories of Passion Achievement and Success, you will encounter a group of women who are comfortable challenging systems and providing alternative perspectives. That is the nature of politics. They are motivated by their beliefs, values and political persuasion. 

One way to challenge a system or role is to be the first woman to do that thing.  You will read that Diane Abbott MP was the first Black woman to become a Member of Parliament. Helen Grant MP is the first mixed (Black and White) female Conservative MP. Chi Onwurah is Newcastle’s first Black and mixed Member of Parliament. Kim Johnson is the first Black MP in Liverpool. Claudia Webbe is the first female MP for Leicester East. Kim and Claudia became MPs in 2019 so this is not ancient history.  There are many places in industry, law, medicine, arts and education that can be challenged by brave women wanting more. 

Photo by Shirley Anstis. Taken at nearby sculpture park

In our everyday lives this could be standing up for a colleague or challenging inappropriate speech and behaviour in a loved one. It all requires courage. In surviving this pandemic many of us have had to dig deep and be more courageous than we’ve been before. We’ve been stronger and braver than we expected. We’ve also felt more vulnerable, and it takes courage to acknowledge that. Even introverts like myself have missed some social gatherings. We found out that we are imperfect and human! 

When you look ahead to 2021 is there anything you need to challenge in yourself or your environment? I think many more of us now have an appreciation for the simple life.  My challenge continues to be ‘less doing and more being’. Oh, and exposing my soul through my writing.

My book An A-Z for your life, discovering and revealing who you are today is a good place to start. Over to you.

This post is written to acknowledge the role of women in the world in honour of International Women’s Day 2021. The theme is  #choosetochallenge.  Co-ordinated by Attract Readers,

12 replies
  1. Jean Wolfe
    Jean Wolfe says:

    This is so relevant and needed Shirley. Thank you for highlighting the role of MP’s that sounds like a really fascinating area to have studied. i guess they all had moments of doubt too.. I have just read Kamala Harris’s book, and have Michelle Obama’s ready to read, and will add yours. So glad to have your informed and passionate voice here for International Women’s Day.

    • Shirley
      Shirley says:

      Thanks Jean, much appreciated. I have not yet finished Michelle Obama’s book but have listened to and watched most of her output. Michelle and Kamala are certainly inspiring. It was really fascinating researching the Black MPs in the House of Commons and finding out how different they are.

  2. Ute
    Ute says:

    What a great post about challenging yourself and others. It’s always good to have role models, isn‘t it. Like the women in your book who are showing others what is possible. I imagine your stories to be a very inspirational read, especially for young women, who may need a little encouragement to “choose to challenge”!

  3. Valerie Lewis
    Valerie Lewis says:

    Inspirational post Shirley and lots of food for thought. I love the challenge you have for yourself “‘less doing and more being’. Oh, and exposing my soul through my writing”.
    Your book is now in my Amazon basket 🙂

    • Shirley
      Shirley says:

      Thanks Valerie, much appreciated. I hope you find the book inspiring too. Please leave a review or recommend once read. Thank you!

  4. Sue williams
    Sue williams says:

    I love your comment about how more often people adjust to suffering until they become unwell. This is sadly true and something that is being flagged up by inspirational role models some of whom you mention. Also great to see information about women doing challenging things who I was not previously aware of. Thank you for a stimulating post

  5. Gill Buchanan
    Gill Buchanan says:

    Thank you Shirley for such an interesting post – I couldn’t agree more that we need to be brave enough to challenge what is wrong. I feel so grateful for those women that choose to become MPs in a world which is certainly challenging for them.

    • Shirley
      Shirley says:

      Thanks Gill – I too am grateful that they step forward, it is such a challenging job but they seem well equipped with knowledge and passion.

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