This is my song and blog for this year's #InternationalWomen'sDay2018 - a tribute to some of the many female activists and suffragists around the world.
1. Honouring Women in the fullest spectrum of gender rainbows
Honouring that 'women' includes those who identify with being assigned female at birth (cis), those who have transitioned (transexuals) and those exploring the full spectrum of expression beyond binary ideas of gender- such as Kate Bornstein, who having transitioned from male to female sees herself as neither, and describes gender 'as a conscious practice, and a playful journey.'
2. Honouring Women in the fullest spectrum of global experience
– Rebecca Lolosoli, Founder of Umoji a women-only village in Kenya
In 1990, Rebecca Lolosoli spoke out against the rape of what is estimated to have been 1400 women in the 1980s & 90s by British soldiers. She was beaten by local men and received no support from her husband. She left her village and formed theUmojii village with 15 rape survivors, which now houses 50 women and 200 children seeking refuge from FGM, child marriage, rape and domestic violence. In the Samburu culture, a woman is seen as property - circumcised child brides are bought by polygamous older men who often desert or infect them with HIV and STDs. In Umoji, the women manage their own land and earn their own money through work such as beading, which has outraged local men. Their rape cases are finally being investigated legally.
I honour the experience of these and many other women facing injustice, degradation and violence across the world. As a white western woman, I am acutely aware that the Western version of 'Herstory' is often whitewashed. I celebrate the centenary of SOME white, propertied women in the UK getting the vote this year. It only happened for black American women in the 1960s and women in Saudi Arabia in 2015 and in too many places is yet to happen.
3. Honouring the fullest possibilities and power of women Women can face and overcome incredible obstacles - such as Serena Williams who faced a barrage of sexist, racist commentary and threats during the course of her extraordinary tennis career. She has however always responded with grace, professionalism and tenacity, determining her own destiny and becoming the winner of the most combined (39) Grand Slam titles.
This month in some of my choirs we will be singing Polly Bolton's song To Grace the Earth, a tribute to environmental and women's rights activist Wangari Maathai who knew that every tree she planted was an act of change. On many occasions she was arrested and injured for doing so. The Green Belt movement she founded in 1977 has since planted 51 million trees and she was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. She knew that power lies in 'the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.’
4. Honouring Women with Acts of Solidarity
What can I do? - It's easy to feel powerless in the face of enormous issues facing women around the world. But following the example of these women, I can take small daily actions - such as sharing their story with you - to demonstrate my solidarity or Umoji - Unity - with them. Everyday there are daily actions I can take I can donate to Plan International who campaign for an end to child marriage and promote education for all girls and The Circle, Annie Lennox's Charity supporting women and girls facing inequality. I can attend #IWD2018 events to share solidarity with women in my city - including Gill Manly's IWD tea party on 10th March at the Oval Tavern which will include a collection of sanitary products for local campaigners against Period Poverty We-Stap. I can write share the stories of inspirational women such as Mayor of Croydon, Toni Letts who survived domestic violence and went on to lead an amazing career. I can sing songs.
Your Turn - Have Your Say! What are your acts of solidarity this International Women's Day? How will you help pave the way for a brighter future for women and girls everywhere? What we do today can make it a better world for people of all genders. For when women grow, the whole world grows. Share it, tweet it, tell it!
April Call-Out for Your Questions/ Ideas Do you have a question or topic you'd like me to write about for April? It can be as playful or as profound as you wish... drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org