International Women’s Day 2022
Throughout history, in all cultures and civilizations, women have had an influence on society. However, these well-known women from history usually fall into one of two categories. There are female rulers and monarchs such as Cleopatra, queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt from 51-30BC, Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned from 1558-1603 and Wu Zeitan, ruler of the Tang Dynasty in China from 624-705. As rulers of their countries, these women had a major influence on society at the time.
Or there are women who are remembered for their notoriety. Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Ireland, Moll Cutpurse, a female highwayman and Bonnie Parker, one half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo, are all remembered negatively, for standing out from the crowd and not ‘behaving like women’.
It was not until the 1800’s, that women began to be recognized for their accomplishments and to positively influence society. Women such as Elizabeth Fry, who influenced prison reform, Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, who modernized nursing, scientists and mathematicians such as Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie and authors like Jane Austen and Mary Shelley were all pioneers in ensuring that women were treated equally and had the same rights as men. The first major step towards equality was achieved at the end of the First World War. The Suffragettes, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, rallied and were advocates for the rights of women and their hard work resulted in women being allowed to vote for the first time in a UK general election on 6th February 1918.
At the Youth Trust, we actively support and promote equality in everything we do. Young people who take part in one of our Young Leaders Award programmes, are given the opportunity to learn from people, past and present, who are leaders and have had a huge influence on those around them. Some of the women studied are household names, such as Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg, and others are not as well known.
Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. Within two weeks she was back in the water, something she puts down to her faith. She has continued surfing but has also used her experiences to set up and run self-esteem workshops for young women.
Amy and Ella Meek are teenage sisters who set up the charity Kids Against Plastics with the goal of getting UK supermarkets to stock non-plastic packaged water alternatives on their shelves instead of single use. They have picked up over 90,000 pieces of single use plastic (and developed an app to log it!) and done their own TedEx talk.
Alice Coachman grew up in Georgia, USA, as one of 10 children. As she was black, Alice was unable to access athletic training facilities or participate in organised sporting events. She had to make do with training wherever she could, improvising with homemade equipment for the high jump. Her perseverance and determination paid off and she was awarded a scholarship, at aged 16, to train in athletics. She went on to win 25 national titles and became the first black woman to win a Olympic gold medal in the 1948 London Olympics. Her success inspired many young women to follow in her footsteps and she later founded the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation to assist young athletes in their careers.
The Young Leaders Award also looks at women from a range of different faiths, such as Mother Theresa, Dr Ingrid Mattson and Baroness Rabbi Julia Neuberger, women who advocate for justice and fairness such as Corrie ten Boom, Amy Carmichael and Jackie Pulinger and women who have used sport to overcome adversity such as Nicola Du Toit, Ellie Simmonds and Lis Hartel.