Happy International Women's Day! In honour to celebrate today, some of our team have chosen to share some of the women who inspire them. This year's theme is #choosetochallenge so we've chosen a set of women who have shown dedication and strength in challenging inequalities and adversity. We hope that we'll be able to inspire you and introduce you to some amazing women they might not be familiar with!
"One woman who inspires me is MARTA LEMPART.
Poland has had some of Europe’s strictest abortion laws since 1993 and Marta Lempart is one of the women fighting back. The country’s Law and Justice party (PiS) has now tightened the restrictions, making it illegal to terminate a pregnancy in the event of fetal abnormalities. This condition accounted for 97% of the legal abortions that happened in Poland in 2020. Now, women may only have one if their life is at risk, or in the event of rape or incest.
As one of the leaders of the pro-choice Women’s Strikes, Marta Lempart has been a leading advocate for women’s rights. She is a lawyer, former construction company manager and was
behind Poland’s 2016 national strike. This event successfully forced the PiS to overturn its proposed restrictions on abortion then, who then succeeded in pushing through the legislation in 2020. Lempart argues that the new ruling is unconstitutional. A change to Poland’s judiciary system in 2020 means that the judges are not able to criticise the Polish government, creating a biased legal system and allowing Poland’s conservative right-wing government to force through its regressive legislation. When the new abortion law was announced last year, there were weeks of protests.
At the time of writing this piece, Marta has been formally charged for her role in organising them. She faces up to eight years imprisonment, which charges ranging from insulting a police officer to creating an epidemiological threat, for protesting during the pandemic.
It is a terrifying reminder of the lengths some governments will go to to control women’s autonomy.
I'm also inspired by JACK MONROE.
Jack is a food writer and anti-poverty campaigner. When she was a single parent with a young son, she lost her job and soon struggled to make ends meet. In 2013, she wrote a blog post called Hunger Hurts that went viral. Her experiences of skipping meals to feed her son struck a chord with many and now Jack is the author of several cookbooks that aim to teach people how to cook healthy and nutritious meals when they lack access to the money, time and resources needed for most conventional cookbooks. Many of her recipes try to help families spend less than 10 pounds a week on food. They are a literal lifeline to millions of families who now live below the breadline.
More recently, Jack has been one of the driving forces behind the UK government’s U-turns over free school meals and working with suppliers who do not give children the healthy and substantial meals that they deserve. She highlights how political decisions and not the parents are most often to blame for child poverty.
It’s high time we listened.
Visit her website here: https://cookingonabootstrap.com/
Follow her on Instagram here: @jack_monroe
Find her on Twitter @BootstrapCook
Finally, WAAD AL-KATAEB inspires me.
Waad is a journalist and film-maker who documented her experiences of the Syrian civil war in Aleppo. She started filming her daily life, documenting her falling in love with and marrying her husband shortly before the Arab Spring protests against the Al-Assad regime and her young family’s experiences of the subsequent civil war. Alongside her doctor husband Hamza, Waad lived in one of Aleppo’s last remaining hospitals, trying to keep her children safe alongside documenting one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. She came to global prominence after Channel 4 showed her films. Waad left Syria in 2016, after their hospital was repeatedly bombed. Her film For Sama is dedicated to her daughters, showing them and the world the suffering but also the remarkable resilience of her country. It won Best Documentary at the BAFTAs in 2019. Now, Waad lives in London and is the founder of the For Sama campaign against hospital bombings in Syria by the regime and its allies.
Writing in Time Magazine, Riz Ahmed noted that her film offers a rare female perspective into the effects of war, a narrative more traditionally told by and focusing on men. Her decision to document the lives of ordinary citizens humanises the Syrian conflict, juxtaposing against the dehumanising and xenophobic discourse often used in relation to those fleeing war zones. For Sama advocates for peace.
Her film is genuinely one of the most moving things I’ve ever watched and a must-watch for anyone interested in world politics or today’s migrant crisis. Actually, scratch that, it’s a must-watch for anyone interested in other people’s stories.
Watch For Sama here: https://www.channel4.com/programmes/for-sama
Follow her personal account here: @waadalkateab
Follow For Sama here: @actionforsama "
"I'm inspired by THORDIS ELVA.
Thordis Elva gained international recognition after writing a book with her rapist. In South of Forgiveness, she not only opens up emotionally about her traumatic experience but she also shares her healing journey. In a candid recital, we follow Elva’s journey from her rape to almost a decade later where she confronts her rapist face to face. The vulnerability and transparency echoed in this book empowers other fellow survivors by discussing the reality of the aftermath of rape, whilst showing that getting back up and healing is possible. Since then, she has built an awareness-raising campaign on image-based sexual abuse, has spoken at the UN and the Nordic Council of Ministers on gender equality, and been awarded Person of the Year award on behalf of the #MeToo Movement.
You can find her here:
Book: South of Forgiveness - Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger
"TARANA BURKE inspires me.
Tarana Burke is an American activist credited with the coining of the term #MeToo - a term which has since become synonymous with the fight against against sexual violence and sexual assault. More than 10 years since she first used the phrase to invite women to share their experiences, it was repopularised by Alyssa Milano. Subsequently, women used it to tweet about their experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of Harvey Weinstein. It is also used more broadly to protest gender-based violence.
In 2017 Times magazine named Burke amongst some of the world's most prominent “silence breakers” in recognition of her activism. Now, Burke is the senior director of Girls for Gender Equity Brooklyn and youth foundation Just Be Inc.
Burke inspires me because despite going through her own hardship and experiences of abuse she has been a proponent of supporting other women. What’s more inspiring is how her mother supported her in recovering from the abuse she experienced in her childhood and adolescent years.
I would like to finish with this quote of hers which resonates with me in a powerful way, particularly as it comes from a woman who has been dedicated to lifting up through her activism.
"Me Too" is about letting - using the power of empathy to stomp put shame.
Follow her on Instagram: @taranajaneen
Find the Me Too account here: @metoomvmt
Check out Girls for Gender Equity: @ggenyc
Watch Tarana’s TED Talk: Me Too is a movement, not a moment | Tarana Burke"
"I'm inspired by Shiori Ito 伊藤詩織
Shiori Ito is a journalist and the face of the #MeToo movement in Japan. She filed a sexual assault lawsuit against the prestigious journalist Noriyuki Yamaguchi, and won the case after years of trial and investigation. In Japan, it is extremely rare that a victim of sexual violence shares their story and allows their name and face to become public knowledge, due to the normalisation of victim-blaming.
Shiori was included in Time’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2020. Her story has inspired numerous women to come forward with their stories of sexual violence, also known as the national flower demonstration of #MeToo in Japan. It is problematic that the rape law in Japan has remained the same for more than a century and has not yet acknowledged non-consensual sex as a crime. There are 510 rapes reported per million people in the UK, but in Japan that number plummets to 10.
It was only in 2017 that the national rape law started to acknowledge non-women victims and other coercive sexual activities. Shiori continues to fight for gender equality at both the legislative level and in everyday life, encouraging more people to recognise the incidents of sexual violence and long-term trauma of victims.
It is critical that we acknowledge Shiori’s courage and her success in winning the case as well as the follow-up movement. More importantly, her story serves to remind us of the disparities of the #MeToo movement. Whilst media coverage has tended to focus on western countries, we need to pay more attention to the problematic laws regarding sexual violence in the East and the Global South.
Follow Shiori on twitter: @photograshiori
Watch the BBC documentary Japan’s Secret Shame: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b8cfcj "