Norfolk WI ask what will you challenge on International Women’s Day?

International Women's Day card with Five strong girls of different cultures and ethnicities stand to

Monday March 8 is International Women's Day - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Today is International Women's Day. Five Norfolk WI federation members have selected the cause they are fighting for on this important day

In days of 'woke', it might be controversial to refer to International Women’s Day but we should not ignore such an important international event.

Back in the heady days of Women’s Lib and burning bras, we were naively optimistic and thought we could change society, if not overnight then maybe next week.

Unfortunately, things have been more difficult than envisaged, particularly internationally, and the lives of many women throughout the world are still far from ideal.

For International Women’s Day this year, we are being asked to #ChooseToChallenge

Elizabeth Barker

Elizabeth Barker - Credit: Submitted

What should we challenge? Maybe stereotypes, discrimination or gender bias. By challenge, we mean stand up and say this is not right because from challenge comes change.

I am choosing to challenge equality.

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Not only have we not reached the equality which we stood up for in the last century but society has become much more unequal, whatever your gender.

The pandemic has highlighted huge differences in opportunity in the UK, not to mention globally.

It is now becoming evident that women have borne the brunt of childcare during lockdown and at the same time it is often women who have lost their jobs or are struggling to keep a job and look after their families.

Mary Dorrell

Mary Dorrell - Credit: Submitted

Mary Dorrell, trustee, regards water, which we take for granted, as a privilege for so many throughout the world.

She said: “Like many households in Norfolk, we suffer frequent sewage flooding. This is distressing but it could be so much worse.

"There are many places in the world where my health would be challenged by the disproportionate effect that insufficient clean water and sanitation facilities has on women.

"Throughout my life I would have been open to abuse and attack while walking to and using a toilet or open defecation site.

"As a girl I would have collected water for the family, as this is primarily a girl's job.

"Later I would have missed school every month because inadequate facilities for menstruation meant that I was unable to keep clean.

"As a woman childbirth would have been dangerous. The carrying of heavy weights as a child may damage the pelvis. Maternity facilities often lack clean water, I might even have had to buy my own.”

Margaret Collingwood

Margaret Collingwood - Credit: Submitted

Margaret Collingwood, federation chairman challenges empowerment.

She said: “There are five recognised categories of women’s empowerment: social, educational, economic, political, and psychological.

"All five of these categories intertwine with one another, but education is surely the most essential. With education young women can achieve their full potential, inside and outside of the home.

"Knowledge provides the tools needed to deal with social and economic inequalities”

Hazel Jones

Hazel Jones - Credit: Submitted

Hazel Jones, trustee, is standing up against discrimination.

She said: “All my life I’ve witnessed discrimination of one form or another, whether race, colour, religion or sexual orientation.

"I just wish we could learn the meaning of tolerance. Our differences should be celebrated not spurned.”

Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes. Louise Casson.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Louise Casson - Credit: Archant

Louise Casson, federation secretary, chooses to challenge Period Poverty.

She said: "Recently Norfolk WI collected sanitary products at our Federation meetings and the generosity of our members was truly amazing with the result that I could barely access my desk

“Being unable to access sanitary products and safe, hygienic spaces in which to manage menstruation traps women and girls every month.

"Period Poverty affects women and girls throughout the world – in the UK it has been estimated that in 2017 over 137,000 girls missed school as a result. It affects their life chances because it denies them the right to education and the ability to lead active, fulfilling lives.

"I believe every woman and girl has the right to access sanitary protection.”

For more information, contact the Norfolk WI at