International Women’s Day takes place on the 8th of March every year, and is a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women internationally. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is the #PressforProgress, focusing on gender parity, or in more simple terms, the proportions of equality between men and women.
This International Women’s Day, I’m not just going to speak about famous politicians, charity workers, scientists, singers and actresses that inspire me. Yes, there are so many inspirational women in this world, from Mary Robinson, an amazing Irish woman who defied the odds and became this country’s first female president as well as a Human Rights activist, to Malala Yousafzai, an inspirational young woman who made it her mission to advocate for the education of girls and women in her home place when it was banned, and continued to do so even after an attempt by the Taliban to murder her.
There are so many inspirational women in this world, but we don’t need to look as far as television and newspapers to find them. They exist in our everyday life.
For myself, I only have to look as far as my best friend, who has battled cancer twice in her life, and is still only 21 years old. What’s more inspirational than her battling and defeating the disease twice, was her attitude during her treatment and recovery, and to this day still has a positive attitude, after experiencing something that could defeat a lot of people. If asked how she managed to keep this attitude throughout this time, she replies that she really never let herself consider an alternative to being positive. She also focused on little things, like reading Harry Potter, or having family and friends visit. She would also say that her mother was a huge influence in keeping her spirits up through the difficult time. Her mother also tirelessly fought on her behalf from the beginning, never resting until she received everything she needed and deserved. It is instances and experiences like this that really show how important it is to have someone there to help and advocate for you, especially when you may be less able to do so yourself.
There are so many campaigns to help empower women across the world nowadays, such as the campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, including Anna Cosgrave’s Repeal Project, where something as simple as putting a word on a jumper can have such a huge impact on this discussion in Ireland today. When it comes to the ‘#metoo’ or ‘Time’s Up’ movements in recent times, where so many women have revealed they have experience sexual harassment and abuse, people complain that it has placed women in a ‘victim’ role, but in fact it is the complete opposite. It has formed a sense of unity and empowerment among women, forcing people to accept and discuss that this harassment and abuse is unacceptable and cannot continue like it previously has.
Many women, including myself, may sometimes feel that they are not able to make a contribution to the world, be it due to economic background, lack of education, where they live, or even just out of fear. But it has to be remembered, that you can never limit yourself because of where you come from, who your family is, that you maybe didn’t finish school, maybe you’re a single parent, or have a disability. Maybe, like me, you’re from a rural area with limited accessibility to larger towns and cities. You are always able to make a difference in the world, no matter how small. Helen Keller, an American woman who became deaf and blind due to illness very early in life, went on to become the first deaf-blind person to receive a bachelor of arts degree. In more recent times, Lynn Ruane, who left school at age 15 after becoming a single teenage mother, and who also came from a disadvantaged area in Dublin, dabbling in drugs and shoplifting in her youth, went on to access education as a mature student, became President of the Trinity College Student’s Union, and is now serving as a Senator in the Seanad.
On this very special International Women’s Day 2018, where we commemorate women receiving the right to vote in the UK and Ireland for the first time, we must also think about the inspiring women in our everyday lives, as it was these kinds of women that fought and still fight for women’s rights and equality every single day, all over the world.