Anita Choudhrie, Founder of Stellar International Art Foundation & Path to Success
I find International Women’s Day incredibly moving. It is a time for celebration, but it is also one for reflection, coming around each year like an annual progress report on women’s rights, asking how far we have come.
Last year, the answer was bleak. Just days before March 8th, the UN Development Forum gender index reported 90% of the population in 75 countries was biased against women. It is findings like this, which prove the urgent need for the existence of International Women’s Day, not just to celebrate the achievements of women, but to shine a light on the barrier of inequality which they have had to overcome.
Sadly, this year, the need is even greater, with data released by UN Women suggesting the pandemic could put gender equality back by 25 years, due to women generally taking on more domestic chores and family care. Even before the pandemic, for everyone hour of unpaid work done by men, three hours were done by women. Now, that figure is even higher.
The official theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is ‘Choose to Challenge’, recognising the need for everyone to do their part and call out gender bias and inequality. As women around the world battle the social, economic and political fallout from Covid-19, this action is needed now more than ever.
With International Women’s Day being one of the biggest awareness days in the calendar, which receives plenty of media coverage each year, I fear many treat the day as a tick box exercise. Granted, there are some incredible organisations across the globe which fight for women’s rights day in day out, but for many businesses, a company-wide email or social media post acknowledging the day is considered enough.
It is this complacency which has caused progress on women’s rights to stagnate, and it’s exactly why ‘Choose to Challenge’ is so incredibly relevant. Whilst it may be tempting to pass the buck and assume the responsibility falls on men, it’s up to women to recognise and act against gender bias too.
I wholeheartedly believe that whilst a woman has power, collectively, we have impact. It is this core belief which has driven me to dedicate much of my philanthropy to supporting women. How else will the world overcome gender disparity, if the groundwork isn’t done within our own community first?
This International Women’s Day, we should all take a moment to reflect on the strong, talented and powerful women we are lucky enough to have met. For me, many of these connections have come through my charity Path to Success, which supports disabled women in sport, and the platform which I established through Stellar International Art Foundation, which endorses female diaspora artists.
To excel in their fields, these women, so often unknown to the general public, have had to overcome incredible barriers, so this year, I wanted to mark International Women’s Day by putting the passion, talent and power of these women all in one place. Over the past month, Stellar International Art Foundation and Path to Success have gathered 108 inspiring quotes from women within our networks, to commemorate the 108th occurrence of this special day. The quote bank makes for a powerful read and you can view them on our website here.
Every day, I am inspired by women, by those I meet, read about, see on the news and those I support through my work. This International Women’s Day, I would encourage everyone to reflect on the amazing women in their lives, on the challenges they have already overcome and those they will continue to face. Only when each and every one of us recognises these struggles and puts in the commitment to help improve gender equality, will International Women’s Day turn into a true celebration, rather than a reminder.