International Women’s Day: Looking At Today And The Future

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

BY LAUREN CODLING

AS THE world celebrates International Women’s Day on Friday (8), it is important to reflect on the progression we have made and how we can continue to do so. Eastern Eye spoke with a selection of influential women to find out their hopes for girls in the future…

Amika George, activist and founder of Free Periods campaign

Amika George

“I really hope that girls will be empowered to speak up about issues that matter to them, and realise that young people have tools, such as social media, at our fingertips that can spread a message in a matter of seconds. I want to see a future where girls feel that their voices have power to change the status quo and have the confidence to change the world around them, even in small ways.”

Naga Munchetty, BBC Breakfast presenter

Naga Munchetty

“I hope that all girls in the future feel free to use their voice, be unapologetic for having a contrary view or for being the brightest star in a room. I hope that all are never prevented from shining as brightly as they can.”

 

 

Mandip Gill, actress

Mandip Gill

“I come from a very strong fearless family of seven women, so in my personal life I’ve never not been heard or afraid to speak. In my professional life I have learned that there are now cracks in the glass ceiling. Women all over have made progress, which needs celebrating, but there is still a long way to go. My hopes for girls in the future is to always be heard and seen; together we’ll break that glass ceiling!”

 

Nisha Katona, founder of Mowgli Street Food

Nisha Katona

“Total equality in every sphere of life, and nothing less, is my hope for girls in the future. Fathers are as important as mothers and need to carry equal weight in the home, just as women need to sit in equal numbers with equal noise levels at founder and board levels.”

 

Baroness Shriti Vadera, chair of Santander UK

Baroness Shriti Vadera

“I hope in the not too distant future that we will have fulfilled our promises and made gender diversity the norm of our daily lives and not a topic needing discussion. Girls would focus on living their dreams without needing to worry if their gender will hold them back. People of all backgrounds, genders and ethnicities will bring their whole selves to the workplace and better decisions will be made in organisations through diversity of thinking and our differences would not be a source of division but of strength.”

 

 

Suella Braverman, MP for Fareham

Suella Braverman MP

“I’m immensely proud to be a Member of Parliament and be in the House of Commons at a time where we are seeing many more women becoming MPs. It’s right that a parliament
is representative of the people it serves, and by having more female MPs, we are seeing women’s issues being championed much more frequently. Both boys and girls and men and women should have equal opportunities. I have seen the huge strides forward in making parliament and politics a fairer place to campaign and work, and it’s right we champion the progress and successes of women on International Women’s Day.”

Ayesha Hazarika, comedian and political commentator

Ayesha Hazarika
(Photo by Steve Ullathorne)

“I hope girls in the future are told to believe in themselves from a young age. That they can do anything and be anything, and that their gender is not a barrier to any of their dreams. We should also encourage girls to find their passions early in life and pursue them, so they can find a career path which they love. They should also be encouraged to be brave and take risks and learn how to fail without feeling like a failure. You only get better at
something by learning from your mistakes in life and not being the “good girl” the whole time. I hope women in the future will have great partners who understand that true equality means equality in the home – which means doing their fair share of the housework. A true feminist partner will happily stack the dishwasher!”

Professor Neena Modi, Professor of Neonatal Medicine at Imperial College London

Professor Neena Modi

 

“It’s possibly never been a better time to be a woman and it’s great to look back on the progress made towards eliminating gender equality. Of course, many disparities persist, but today women can have the confidence to turn their compassion, intelligence and resolve towards addressing not only these challenges but also the great societal problems of our time.”

 

Anita Anand, author and journalist

Anita Anand

“The best thing about being a girl – in the past, present, and future – is undoubtedly your automatic membership to the sisterhood. Should you choose to avail yourself of the benefits – (conditional only on being decent and kind) you will find love, laughter, companionship and support all the days of your life. The sisterhood has been a constant in my life and I draw much strength from it. Be good to your sister-women and you will reap the benefits a hundred-fold.”

 

Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, businesswoman and Conservative life peer

Ruby McGregor-Smith (Photo by Frantzesco Kangaris/Vismedia)

“My wish for girls in the future is that they develop a real sense of self-belief when they are young and believe there are no barriers – that’s how you break those glass ceilings. I look forward to them breaking more of them.”

 

 

Tulip Siddiq MP

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn

“I’m very optimistic about the next generation. I’m always inspired when I meet young girls getting involved in politics and think that young women today are more politically engaged than before. I’m excited to see where the next generation will take us.”

 

Ritula Shah, journalist and news presenter on BBC Radio 4

Ritula Shah

“Around the world, there can be no let-up in the battle for better healthcare and education for women. Conflict and climate change are among the factors that will affect women adversely in some of the poorest parts of the globe. In the UK, women are bolder and more courageous than ever before which is brilliant – from ‘Me too’ to the battle for equal pay, there is a really determined effort to demand respect and stake our place in society. But I would also like to see men take on their fair share of caring and domestic duties and playing a part to create workplaces that reflect modern lives with shared responsibilities.”

 

Anuja Dhir

Judge Anuja Dhir QC

“The value and the benefits of diversity are recognised more now than ever before. It is no longer simply about fairness, there is now a recognised business case for it. We should all ensure we are doing all we can, individually and collectively, to encourage and support talent wherever that comes from. I am confident we will and the time will come when equality for all, regardless of gender, race and social background will become a reality.”

 

Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central and shadow secretary for Women and Equalities

Dawn Butler MP

“On this International Women’s Day, I want to remind women and girls everywhere that they can achieve anything they put their minds to. My mission as shadow secretary of state for women and equalities is to push for change in society so that all women, no matter their backgrounds, are able to fulfil their potential. To do this, we must remove the structural barriers which prevent progress for so many women and speak about the value of women and their contribution to society.”

 

Muna Shamsuddin, British diplomat and co-chair of the FCO’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Network

Muna Shamsuddin

“Having spent the past 10 years representing the UK in some of the most challenging parts of the Middle East, I often found myself busting stereotypes about British women of colour. My wish is that girls continue to smash stereotypes like these and show just how much value women bring – the sky is the limit!”

 

Poppy Jaman, CEO of City Mental Health Alliance

Poppy Jaman

“For girls to feel equal to men, society needs to significantly shift. In my experience, we have a long way to go for this to be a reality and in particular a long way to go in the Asian community. I hope for a time when you can be a girl anywhere in the world and feel safe, respected and proud.”

 

 

Rimla Akhtar, businesswoman and chair of the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation

Rimla Akhtar

“Excellence and progress are only possible when we come together. So, my hope is that our women and men, girls and boys, come together to create a world where our identity elevates, rather than diminishes, our opportunity to positively impact on those around us.”

 

Sheree Atcheson

Sheree Atcheson, Global Ambassador at Women Who Code

“My hope for the future is that we will continue to see young women flourish and grow in whatever interests them, regardless of outdated gender stereotypes. With so many fantastic organisations showcasing STEM to our young women, such as Stemettes and Coderdojo, I am positive we have a new generation of empowered, excited and amazing leaders on our hands.”

Rokhsana Fiaz, mayor of Newham

Rokhsana Fiaz

“When I was elected last year as the first female directly-elected mayor of British Asian heritage in the country, the symbolism wasn’t lost on me. As we mark International Women’s Day, I am determined to play my part in moving beyond symbols and accelerate the progress of women like me into more positions of political leadership in this country and internationally. We must continue the fight so women of all ages and backgrounds are represented in political and public life, as our contributions in shaping our country and tackling the big challenges facing the world are vital.”

Eleanor Smith, MP for Wolverhampton South West

Eleanor Smith MP

“My advice to girls and women is not to lose your compassion when you go into the big man’s world. Caring is our natural instinct and you should be proud of it and use it. You can be compassionate and strong. Also, find the right people to support you, who let you know ‘you can do it’. For me it was the union Unison. They gave me the tools, the mentoring, the training, and the guidance. You will need your own support team too. And then don’t give up. Keep up the fight like the suffragettes did. On social media people try their hardest to scare women off. We won’t be scared off, we haven’t got equality yet. Women are not going to be put back in a box.”

 

Dame Pratibha L Gai

Dame Pratibha Gai, British microscopist and Professor and chair of Electron Microscopy

“I strongly encourage girls to take up STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and be the best you can be. There are world-leading female scientists as role models for girls to look up to. Above all, STEM subjects offer great opportunities and satisfaction to develop better healthcare, sustainable energy sources and a cleaner environment, which are beneficial to society. After all, women make up half the population and more women scientists and engineers bring more benefits to the world.”

Fouzia Younis

Fouzia Younis, British diplomat and co-chair of the FCO’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Network

“As a British diplomat, a woman of colour, the daughter of Commonwealth migrants, and as the first person from my family to go to university, I believe passionately that the diversity of our great nation is one of our greatest strengths – at home and overseas. So, what I want is for all women to break out of comfort zones, to be brave, to soar; and become the change we want to see. Our time has come.”

 

Jasvinder Sanghera

Jasvinder Sanghera, activist and founder of Karma Nirvana

“My hope for women in the future is that they continue to shout louder and own their personal power to know they can be part of the change we seek.”