International Women’s Day 2020: Your views
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March 8 is International Women's Day. We wanted to get a snapshot of what life is like for women in East Anglia in 2020, so we asked you what your main issues and worries are. Here's what you told us.
With its social media hashtags and slogans of empowerment, International Women's Day feels like a very modern campaign. But, in fact, the first International Women's Day gathering was held more than a century ago, in 1911. Held annually on March 8, across the world the event celebrates women's social, economic, cultural and politicial achievements - and it is also a call to action for accelerating gender equality.
We wanted to get a snapshot of what life in 2020 is like for women in East Anglia, so earlier this week we went online to find out what the big issues are for our readers across Norfolk and Suffolk. We asked them what their worries are. Family? Career? The pressure of juggling family and career? Or feeling that they have to choose between one or the other? Being married? Being single? Not having children? Having children? How many children to have? Their children's future? When it comes to careers does the glass ceiling still exist? Maybe it's eco anxiety keeping women awake at night. Or money. Or worrying about the coronavirus.
We seem to have struck a chord, because we had a phenomenal response, with dozens of readers getting in touch. A huge thank you to all who did. Here's what you told us.
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Family, career and money
By far the biggest issues among those who responded were family, career and money, with the words "juggling" and "balancing" cropping up time and time again. It is clear that the women who took part in our survey take on the primary carering role in their domestic set-ups alongside work with answers including "juggling work, running a home and being a good mum", "juggling a career with raising children", "balancing a demanding job and children and being generally worn out all the time trying to make ends meet" and "the cost of childcare and flexible working for working mothers."
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Some women are not only caring for children, but their elderly parents too. "Managing care for children and elderly relatives" and "care for elderly relatives" were among the responses.
If you don't choose to have a family yourself, some say they do feel that there is a "pressure" to do so.
Later on in life, "extending retirement age" and "moving pension age goalposts" become a bigger issue.
Health was another major issue, with wide ranging concerns, from "supporting friends and family dealing with mental health issues" to "lack of HRT medication".
"I fear for the outlook for services such as the NHS, which is so important to all of us," said one respondent.
The call for gender equality is at the heart of International Women's Day, but there is a feeling among our respondents that there is a way to go yet.
"Whether our voices are heard when it comes to harassment and discrimination" was the top issue for one person, while "discrimination in work", "pay equality", "deeply ingrained stereotypes" and "the continued existence of the patriarchy" were other responses.
Eco anxiety is a real phenomenon, with several respondents saying that they worry for the planet and future generations.
"The climate emergency" said one respondent. "The environment and its impact on the economy" said another.
Unfortunately, judging by what our respondents told us, body image is still an issue for many women.
"The idea of being and looking perfect. Being the perfect size," said one. "To look a certain way and not put weight on," said another.
As one respondent said: "Women need good role models and support to become the best they can be. They need to believe in themselves and not have their lives dictated by what they see on social media."
Another eye-opener was how many women are worried about their personal safety and the steps they take automatically take, such as having their keys in their hand when they're walking home alone in the evening or not wearing headphones when they're out running, 'just in case'.
"Being able to feel safe while out and about," wrote one.
"My safety as a woman in a relationship with another woman - the worry of being abused or attacked for holding hands while walking round town...the constant concern for a female family member walking home from work, late at night," said another.
Loneliness is still a major issue for many women. Perhaps it's due in part to the geography of our largely rural region, but one respondent said: "Isolation and lack of cultural events/ gatherings" was their main concern, while for another "establishing and maintaining [social] networks" is a problem. 'Weekend loneliness' is a growing phenomenon - a surprising number of people, of all ages, find themselves isolated at weekends, often not socialising between clocking off work on a Friday afternoon and clocking back in again on Monday morning. This is something we can all have a part in solving - say hello to your neighbours, chat to people when you're out and about. As one respondent said: "Mostly I just wish the world could be nicer to each other." And there's no better place to start than in your own neighbourhood.