This International Women’s Day, we are celebrating all of the incredible women who support our work; from contributors to volunteers, team members to trustees, our organisation could not make the impact we do, without them.
This year’s IWD campaign focus is #EmbraceEquity. “Equity isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. A focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society’s DNA. And it’s critical to understand the difference between equity and equality.”
What does International Women’s Day mean to you, and how are you celebrating?
Charmaine: IWD is a chance to celebrate women who often take the emotional load and do so much, in terms of soft skills and empathy, to bring the world together. It’s an opportunity to celebrate all women, particularly great women.
Georgina: Although women should be acknowledged all year round, for me, IWD is a moment to stop and acknowledge the fantastic achievements of all women, both in my life and globally. It’s not always the ‘big things’ as the world would define achievements but the unseen moments of tears, joys, and finding the courage to just keep things going. It is a moment to appreciate all that connects us, regardless of where we find ourselves in the world; recognising the beauty of our diversity and fighting collectively against any form of discrimination.
Kerry: For me, International Women’s Day is about celebrating the achievements of those women who have helped us to grow and flourish. It’s about celebrating those who inspire us. I think it’s also about celebrating our own achievements as women, so we should definitely try and take some time to do that. I’ll be being extra kind to those women in my life who support me, and I’ll be doing all I can to show them my appreciation. I’ll also be continuing to be the best person I can be.
Fran: For me, International Women’s Day is a day of celebration and recognition. It provides women and girls with a platform, to be seen and heard and it’s a wonderful way for women to come together to reflect, acknowledge and support one another. My partner, daughter, son and I will be celebrating by talking about all the amazing female members of our family and those impactful women in history and reading through some of their stories.
Rebecca: This International Women’s Day, I’ll be attending Vision Foundation’s quarterly Board meeting, so I will be hearing from some of the fantastic and inspiring women that sit on our Board and leadership team. Taking in their words of wisdom on the shape of our organisation as we get ever closer to our merger and sharing the phenomenal work the women and men in our fundraising team have been doing over the last few months.
What does being a woman mean to you?
Charmaine: As the mother of two young daughters I feel very deeply that they, and all of us, should celebrate and understand the strengths of women. And how important it is for women to have a voice in the world right now.
Georgina: Being a woman for me is completely aligned to this year’s IWD theme, and that means not being confined by stereotypes or other people’s expectations or limitations in every aspect of our lives. Having a daughter has forced me to challenge the barriers the world places, especially if you are a woman of colour, of a certain age or with a disability, and the importance of being champions for each other.
Kerry: I think being a woman means being strong and courageous, and being determined to push limits. For me, it’s also about looking forwards, and not being suppressed by any stereotypes or outdated ideas. It’s about being myself, whatever that may be, and always doing my best. It’s about remembering that we can have strong voices as women.
Fran: Being a woman for me is two-fold. I think women are amazing and possess so many amazing qualities -we are strong, we are logical, we are kind, we are empathetic, we are determined. But we are also oppressed and marginalised. But thankfully we are also powerful.
Rebecca: My perspective of being a woman has changed a lot since I became a mother and especially now that I am pregnant again! Being a woman is incredibly powerful and I am privileged that I am able to grow a tiny human.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Charmaine: This all comes with life experience but I would tell my younger self to have more of a voice, and to be more confident in their abilities. Be kind, compassionate and assertive. Call out bad behaviour in the right way and don’t be afraid to do that. Remember and use the mantra: “There are reasons, but not excuses”
Georgina: Just breathe!
Kerry: If I were talking to my younger self, I would say: don’t be afraid of making mistakes, and don’t worry if you don’t always have a clear path to follow. Deciding what you want to do, or who you want to be, too early can be limiting. You will grow and learn from your mistakes, and don’t be afraid to ask others for advice. Don’t get caught up in stereotypes, and just be yourself!
Fran: The advice I would give to my younger self is to shut out the noise. Do what makes you happy and be confident. Be comfortable in your own skin and don’t be afraid to say no. And to also enjoy amazing family holidays and to stop wishing you were back home partying with your friends instead!
Rebecca: That failure or making mistakes is all part of the learning process.
Is there a visually impaired woman that inspires you? Who are they and why?
Charmaine: Dr Alexandra Adams who talks about her white cane being her superpower! Michelle Rivers Senior Rehab Officer at Brent Council who gave me my superpower when she taught me how to use my white cane.
Georgina: My Aunt inspires me. She started losing her sight in her 60s and I am amazed by her fortitude in adapting to a new way of living. I have been especially inspired by her resilience and her vulnerability during lockdown, and her complete honesty about her sight loss journey.
Kerry: I find the influencer, Lucy Edwards incredibly inspiring. Not only has she overcome so much, but she has a highly positive outcome. She helps to normalise disability and visual impairment, and she’s brought so much into the mainstream. Her determination to succeed is contagious and uplifting.
Fran: My grandma lived until she was 98 and she was an amazing woman. She was a teacher and an artist, producing hundreds of pastel and oil paintings. As she got older, she lost her sight and for the last 10 years of her life, she was almost completely blind. For her, it meant she could no longer paint. Although she was devastated, she was determined not to let it get her down. She took up new hobbies such as yoga and joined social clubs so she could meet new people and develop an active social life. She was the absolute epitome of ‘inspirational’.
Rebecca: I love speaking with Charmaine, who is a regular contributor to Vision Foundation, and hearing about her journey. She is an absolute inspiration and I love her attitude of getting stuck into everything and her new motto of “feel the fear and do it anyway”!