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.
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.
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, https://www.attractreaders.com