Over the course of the past year, the word inequality has made daily headlines. From healthcare to education, the pandemic has thrown existing socio-economic inequalities into stark relief. We also know that the costs of the crisis are being borne disproportionately by women and minoritised groups, leaving them more exposed to financial insecurity, health risks and declines in wellbeing.
Quite simply, the pandemic is exacerbating inequality. So it’s especially pertinent that the theme of the 110th International Women’s Day is #ChoosetoChallenge, with organisers encouraging people to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. Today we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements contributions of women, and rally for equality across the globe.
While celebrations are looking a little different this year, we can still do our bit to help the cause, particularly for women who have felt the sharpest impact of inequality during the pandemic. Individual responsibility sits at the heart of IWD, and if you’re committed to playing a role in the movement towards a gender balanced world, there are plenty of ways to get involved. Here are just a few of them.
1. Identify your goals
According to the IWD campaign, gender parity will not be attained for almost a century. Data from UN Women, meanwhile, has revealed that the pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality. While statistics like these can make you want to fight every injustice, it’s much easier to make a difference when you focus on one thing.
With that in mind, ask yourself what issues personally strike a chord with you. From the plight of domestic violence refuges and the gender pay gap, to the hardships facing refugee and migrant women, there are many brilliant organisations that can provide specific information on your chosen cause – all it takes is a little research to find them.
The pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality”
The Maya Centre, for instance, provides free, culturally sensitive counselling to disadvantaged women in Islington who have experienced mental health issues. Our clients may have endured domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, war and conflict or harmful practices, while 70% of our base is made up of women from Black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee backgrounds. If you’re passionate about the provision of mental health services, or healthcare justice for minoritised groups, you can find out how to get involved in our work here.
2. Educate yourself
Once you’ve identified your area of interest, it’s time to start learning everything about it. Follow relevant charities and organisations on social media, read expert literature, and seek out any virtual talks, workshops or events that will expand your knowledge and introduce you to like-minded people.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the subject of mental health, women-only counselling, or the experiences of minoritised women in therapy, the Maya Centre’s website is a great place to start. By exploring the information and resources on our website, you’ll also gain an understanding of the importance of intersectional feminism in changing the culture around mental health.
The Maya Centre started life as a grassroots charity in 1984, and has provided a free counselling service for women without access to mainstream therapy options for nearly four decades.
The generous donations of the public have enabled us to give a lifeline to some of the most disadvantaged women in London. It goes without saying that we are hugely grateful to every person and organisation that has supported this vital work over the years – but charities cannot function without funds, and we welcome any donations during this especially difficult period to enable us to continue our work and plan more effectively for the future.
Whether you have a little spare cash that you have saved from going without your daily takeaway coffee, or are in the position of setting up a monthly direct debit, every donation goes a long way towards supporting women on the margins. You can find more information on how to make a donation here.
4. Use your voice
The common perception of activism is protests and placards, but there are many ways to can use your voice to amplify the causes that you care about.
Once you’ve identified the issues that you feel most passionately about, start speaking up. Join in conversations on social media, share important information and viewpoints, and call out societal injustices. Look out for online petitions, and drop the organisations that interest you an email to find out volunteering opportunities.
In the future, you might also start thinking about organising a fundraising event. From sponsored marathons to pub quizzes, there are endless ways to get creative. When we all come together and raise our voices, we can really effect change.
5. Challenge the status quo
The IWD theme asks us to commit to commit to #ChooseToChallenge and call out inequality. But what does that mean in practice?
The official International Women’s Day campaign have identified four key areas in which to channel our efforts: celebrating the achievements of women, raising awareness about women’s equality, lobbying for accelerated gender parity and fundraising for female-focused charities.
The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist, nor to any one organisation, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” – Gloria Steinem”
They also suggest areas in which works needs to be done to forge equality. These run the spectrum from educating women and raising awareness on health issues, to building inclusive workplaces and shining a spotlight on activities that encourage women to pursue goals without bias or barriers.
The website also provides a useful list of ways to impact positive change for women. As well as popular suggestions such as hosting an online event and donating to a female-focused charity, there are several smaller but equally as important initiatives: posting a #ChooseToChallenge selfie on social media with one of the IWD template cards, sourcing women-owned local businesses from the IWD Supplier Directory, and watching the IWD videos as conversation starters amongst your friends, family and colleagues.
Remember: there is no right way to celebrate International Women’s Day, and every action is just as valuable in making a positive difference.