By: Radhakrishna N S
By Rupa Popat and Rupal Sachdev Kantaria
WHEN we were both due to speak as part of an International Women’s Day (IWD) debate at the House of Lords in March 2017 hosted by Lord and Lady Popat, we arrived not really knowing what to expect.
We had not previously attended a parliamentary debate. Indeed, this was one of the organisers’ objectives – to give a chance to others who do not get to walk those history-steeped halls daily to share their platform with the voices of women so often left unheard, particularly in our community.
We left that day full of inspiration, gratitude and, like others who were lucky enough to attend, determined to drive positive change for all women – in our family, community, workplace and more broadly.
The following year, we contacted Lord and Lady Popat to find out what their plans were. They were delighted with the interest and asked if we would like to take on a stronger role going forward. So with councillor Ameet Jogia, Lord Popat’s parliamentary assistant, the five of us have made a powerful team. Each year the IWD event in the iconic Houses of Parliament has grown in influence.
Moving from the Lords to the Commons, we have broadened the diversity of speakers to represent all types of women – different racial groups, ages, socio-economic backgrounds, sexualities and life experiences. We have aligned to the most pressing topics of the day, balancing inspirational personal stories with expert accounts from those at the very top of their fields. Speakers have included businesswoman and campaigner Gina Miller; renowned Indian fashion designer Sabyasachi; global Instagram influencer Diipa Khosla; and Tracey Ford, who lost her son to gang violence.
This year, we welcome 12 changemakers who will speak for five minutes each as is traditional parliamentary protocol. They include 13-year-old Khloe Thompson, an international philanthropist; best-selling author Jay Shetty; the CEOs of NatWest Group Alison Rose and Starling Bank, Anne Boden; Anya Hindmarch CBE; Baroness Minouche Shafique and Yamina Karitanyi, high commissioner for Rwanda. Themes range from entrepreneurship to innovation, finance to fashion, transgenderism, black lives matter and youth violence.
This event is more important than ever. The impact of Covid-19 on our world has been unimaginable in our lifetimes. Already evidence shows not only that women have been more disadvantaged than men, and in particular, women of colour, but that their voices are also being left out of the conversation and the reshaping of our future world post-Covid. A silver lining is that our virtual event this year will reach many more. We invite each of you to join us.
This year’s International Women’s Day event will be held virtually on Friday, March 5, from 1pm-2.30pm. To attend, register through the link https://bit.ly/3qxQLrO. For details on the event and discussions, visit https://bit.ly/3rFvTPw