March 8 2011

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Inspirational Women

We would like to wish all our visitors a Happy International Women’s Day and to thank all the inspirational women (both young and older) that we have been lucky to work with over the years…

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday. Suffragettes campaigned for women’s right to vote. The word ‘Suffragette’ is derived from the word “suffrage” meaning the right to vote. International Women’s Day honours the work of the Suffragettes, celebrates women’s success, and reminds us all of the many inequities still to be redressed.

There are International Women’s Day events happening all over the world today; to find out more you can visit the official website to find out more.

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year we have been working in partnership with the British Council and Women Make a Difference on a new ‘Inspirational Women’ Digital Stories project. Valley and Vale were asked to make 6 digital stories about inspirational women living in Wales. These stories were screened at the British Council on March 7th 2011 when a group from Jordan and Egypt came to spend a week with Women Make A Difference as part of the Active Citizens Programme.

The stories were as varied and unique as the women themselves. Sikiya told her story of being Nigerian and going to school in Merthyr Tydfil until she was 4, and then travelling on the boat with her family back to Nigeria (where her father had a job as a doctor) to be shocked by the fact that everyone was black, and she thought she was the only black family. Lyn who moved from Essex to Pontycymer during her ‘O’ Levels felt that her disrupted education had affected her career choices but that hasn’t stopped her at 67 years old going to University to do a degree in Women’s Studies. These are just 2 of the stories, what all the women have in common is that they are incredibly active in their community, and are passionate about giving something back, being Active Citizens:

“That’s what life’s about, giving something back to your community. Give back, don’t take. Most people they get to 60 and they just want to settle down, I don’t want to settle down, there’s too much to do. But as for inspirational, I wouldn’t have thought I was inspirational, I just think, come on let’s do it!” (Lyn)

“I think it’s important for me to give something back to my own community, because I personally think that I’ve got a lot of life experience that I can share with other people who haven’t had the advantages that I have Being an Active Citizen has allowed a lot of doors to open for me and I’d like to share that experience. If I help somebody, it gives me a huge buzz really. I just thrive off knowing that something I’ve done that day actually made somebody’s life better.’” (Anita)

“Somebody said that when I die I want to go empty, meaning that I want to leave on the earth everything I have, and not carry it with me, so that’s want I want to do, deposit everything I have to give, before I leave.” (participant)

The stories were really well received, there was a great atmosphere, and the group from Jordan and Egypt are now keen to record their stories to add to the collection.

The aim of the Women Making a Difference project is to address the gender imbalance that continues to exist on public bodies in Wales by educating and empowering women from across Wales to take an active role in influencing decisions which impact on their lives – by contributing to decision-making processes. The rationale behind the Women Making a Difference Project is that women make up 52% of the population in Wales and whilst life has changed a great deal over the past 30 years of sex equality legislation – girls now out-perform boys at school and women account for almost half of the workforce – not enough has changed in the make up of the leadership of our public bodies, whether in elected or appointed offices. For example, only 23% of councillors (an increase of only 1% in May 2008) and 21% of MP’s in Wales are women and, whilst in the Welsh Assembly Cabinet 44% of members are women, only 2 of the 17 members of the WAG Management Board are women.

Active Citizens connects organisations and people involved in local initiatives that benefit their communities, and gives them the opportunity to gain an international perspective on the valuable work they’re already doing, contribute to social research on global themes, develop cross-cultural engagement skills and international professional networks.