International Women’s Day is a great opportunity for us to consider women the world over, the diversity of lives lived by women now, and in the past, and the challenges we all face as individuals. I don’t think I have ever given International Women’s Day so much thought as I have since having my daughter. I look at the world anew wondering what the world will look like for her in the future and knowing that I want to do what I can to make it a better and safer world for her.
This year’s call to action is #BeBoldForChange, IWD is asking people to commit to taking action in one area. There are so many important issues it can be a bit overwhelming so I decided to focus on things directly affecting me for this blog but I am interested to see what else is discussed today. We can all make a difference. At the forefront of my mind this year are two issues, women’s education and women’s health.
My thoughts on women’s health stem largely from my experience of life after birth. Almost every woman I speak to who has brought a child into the world has some horror story to tell about the way they were treated in hospital during birth, after birth or health issues related to birth. I have also noticed a lot of health insurers don’t cover health issues related to pregnancy but have given no decent explanation for this and since pregnancy is something only women go through I really feel it begs the question is this a gender bias issue?! Through my own experience and that of friends who have had health concerns that can be filed under ‘Women’s Health’ the consistent level of disinterest even from female doctors has been astounding and that combined with the lack of information and research is infuriating. The explanation is worse, ‘Oh, it’s Women’s Health, there just isn’t the funding/it isn’t sexy enough/women are too embarrassed to speak up’ as if any of these are acceptable reasons for Women’s Health to be underfunded and stagnant. I wish I knew where to turn to support these issues, if you know of a fantastic charity or something I can do please get in touch.
I am increasingly passionate about the inequality in access to education for women the world over. This is a huge issue and I can’t do it justice today but I would like to offer one tiny insight from my little world with regard to Sports Education. My daughter is not yet in full time education but boy does she love learning, and for her age group a great way to explore that is through attending different groups. My daughter attends a toddler rugby class, she is one of only two girls in her session of about 10 children and when I tell people she does this I have received various responses ranging from ‘That’s great, she’ll show them how its done’ to ‘Isn’t that a bit rough, shouldn’t she be doing ballet?’. The general consensus though is that this is unusual, but why should that be the case? She loves it, they are learning to throw, catch, run, jump, share, socialise, communicate, identify numbers and colours and work as a team. The kit is pretty awesome too! When I was younger I desperately wanted to play baseball, unfortunately that was thwarted by my living in the UK, and by my being a girl, so I want to give her a variety of opportunities. I appreciate there have been positive advancements in sports education for women but I would like to see this continue.
I was brought up to have a go and over the years have tried my hand at cricket, golf and football as well as ballet, netball and gymnastics. It was at University that I decided to revisit cricket and if I’m honest I was mostly a social member, I certainly attended more nights out than I did nets but I made fantastic friends and we had a good relationship with the Men’s Cricket club. I would love to see more of this happening at a younger age so that women have the confidence and skill to embrace these sports. There have been some fantastic campaigns on this recently and its an area receiving more and more air time so I hope we will start to see things changing. I can appreciate sports isn’t for everyone but if young girls and women are only given limited access to sports like cricket, rugby and football because of gender stereotypes and bias then this will never happen. Don’t get me wrong if my daughter expresses a desire to stop the rugby and try ballet then that is fine. My main focus will be on her learning team work, dedication, setting and achieving goals and the benefits of regular exercise in a positive environment because #thisgirlcan. Overall I would love to see more funding for and appreciation of women in all sports and I am glad this is something that is receiving more and more attention.
I am going to #BeBoldForAction by looking into what I can to do to bring about positive change in these areas, challenging bias and inequality and championing women’s education. For me part of that is writing this blog post to raise awareness, start discussion and not be afraid to tackle issues that are all too often just accepted as normal. In case you missed it I recently blogged on the challenges and attitudes surrounding breastfeeding too. I’d love to hear your thoughts, I hope we can generate positive discussion and noise for International Women’s Day.