GGMUK and With and For Girls joined hands with Seele Creative communications consultancy to host a stimulating evening of talk, film and images to celebrate International Women’s Day 2018. Ally Portee, founder of Seele Creative and moderator of the event, reports
To be heard is one thing, to be listened to is another. It has been years of progress, pressing, leaning in and struggle that has got women to where we are today. In 1977, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a resolution for there to be a day for women known as International Women’s Day. Each year the UN chooses a theme, a call-to-action with the aim to alleviate the struggle that women have faced for decades. This year’s theme, “Press for Progress” is aimed at motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender-inclusive.
In response, GlobalGirl Media UK, Seele Creative, and the With and For Girls Collective organised a film screening, photo exhibition and panel discussion on the themes of how to Amplify Young Women’s Voices, as well as Jobs Without Gender, at Hult International Business School in central London, on 7 March. The evening culminated with more than 50 guests and the panellists networking over GlobalGirl Media-branded Lola’s Cupcakes.
Victoria Bridges, the Executive Director of GlobalGirl Media UK (GGMUK), opened the event, followed by Swatee Deepak, the Director of Stars Foundation, who introduced the exhibition of photos taken by women from around the world. GlobalGirl Poppy Sharples introduced GGMUK’s two documentaries, Brexit Unveiled and Stealing Intimacy, the former which she had worked on herself.
Then the panel came to the stage, comprising (left to right) Swatee Deepak, Director of the Stars Foundation; Elina Salo, Business Planning and Revenue Management Manager for UPS in the UK and Ireland; Deeqo Shire, representative for Integrate UK; and Aisha Clarke, GlobalGirl and Youth Ambassador for GGMUK, now production trainee at Channel 4; celebrating IWD2018 here with Ally Portee.
Various topics were discussed, starting with the economic and peace value of countries prospering when women are brought to the table and allowed to speak up and have a role in the life of a nation. The conversation shifted to Female Genital Mutilation, an issue area that Deeqo Shire knows all too well, as she has spoken extensively on the issue and attended meetings where British Prime Minister Theresa May and former Prime Minister David Cameron were present.
Elina Salo from UPS shared her experiences of having worked in male-dominated environments, and the importance of corporations having an equal balance of men and women. As questions poured in from the audience, Grace Labeodan asked, “How do we bring men to the table without making them feel as though they are the enemy for the struggles women have faced throughout the generations?”
All the women agreed that women’s issues are men’s issues too. Swatee stressed the importance of involving boys. Deeqo agreed that when boys are brought into the discussion about the continued struggles of women and the girls around the world, they are interested and feel included in the issues.
A second question came from one of the few men who braved this largely female gathering. Bill Bridges asked if the West should advocate for better treatment of women in countries like Saudi Arabia that aren’t known for letting women live to their full potential. Or, if the West should focus on addressing women’s rights issues at home first? Swatee said that grassroots is key, and that those nations with poor women’s rights already have activist groups working there; our job in the West is to support them. And yes, we should be putting our own house in order rather than telling others what to do.
Ally closed the night’s discussion by asking each panellist: “What does Press for Progress mean to you?” Aisha Clarke made a pertinent statement: “Press for Progress is not about talking, it’s about taking action.”
International Women’s Day is a significant day. It’s a day for women, yes, but it’s also a day for men and boys. Progress, and taking action, means bringing boys and men to the table to discuss and educate them on the struggles that affect females today, which also affect them as males. Taking action means running for political office, helping others, and making a difference in your community. That’s what GlobalGirl Media UK, Seele Creative and the With and For Girls Collective are doing in London and around the world.