International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th March every year as a way of remembering the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, both past and present.
We have been officially celebrating this momentous occasion since 1911, just 3 years after 15,000 women marched the streets of New York, campaigning for equal rights, better pay, shorter working hours and gender equality. Since then, it has become a global event with women joining together in solidarity, hosting events, using social media to amplify the importance of supporting each other and advocating the importance of equality in the workplace. It’s also a great time to recognise the many great women we have in our own lives from family members to friends to colleagues.
Every year a theme is chosen and this year it is #ChooseToChallenge which simply means, taking the responsibility to challenge our own actions and that of others.
There are so many ways in which we can choose to challenge and when I relate this to the vitiligo community, it inspires me to know that, over recent years we have been using our voices to raise awareness, whilst breaking down the stigma often associated with the condition.
Everyday, I am inspired by the women around me. The women leading in organisations, mothers raising their children alongside careers, those doing all they can to champion equality and also the incredible women I work with at The Vitiligo Society, and to mark such a celebratory day, we have decided to share with you, how we #ChooseToChallenge and what it’s meant for us…
Abbie Hurrell – Director
I want to challenge myself to shout more about my accomplishments.
It feels universally accepted that women should make big announcements about certain milestones in life, the big ones being getting engaged, married and falling pregnant.
But for me, these were never my goals in life. My goals were to own my own home, have an amazing career and travel.
I’ve attended numerous engagement parties, weddings and baby showers, whilst at the same time remaining fairly silent about achieving my own goals. I often felt my focus on career and independence actually made my friends uncomfortable at times, and that by asking them to celebrate my achievements I was somehow being critical of their choices.
There is so much pressure to achieve certain things, to live life a certain way or in a particular order. Would sharing my own achievements take some of that pressure off my friends, and perhaps even inspire them to become more imaginative and open to what the big, celebratory occasions in life could be?
Catherine Davidson – Trustee
I want to work with senior women and collectively strengthen our skillset to ensure we are paving the way for the future generation of women leaders.
My career has been in financial services, a sector that has traditionally struggled with a lack of diversity. I have chosen to challenge this through working with other senior women and allies to support each other, call out bias and promote diversity in our decision-making, and help mentor the next generation of future women leaders.
As a new trustee of the Vitiligo Society I want to help challenge some of the perceptions around vitiligo. I want sufferers to feel more comfortable in their own skin and to educate the wider community about the condition.
Natalie Ambersley – Trustee
I want to use my voice for the great of good so that vitiligo is better understood and more people feel empowered to share their story.
When I think about this years theme and how it applies to some of what I’ve experienced in my life, the most poignant memory that cemented how i’ve chose to challenge, was after my appearance on London Live in 2013 when I openly spoke about what it was like living with vitiligo. At the time, I didn’t realise the positive impact using my voice would have on my own life and those who were also struggling with the pressures of living with a visible skin condition.
Since that moment, my #ChooseToChallenge moments have been driven towards my passion to raise awareness of vitiligo, dispel the myths associated with the condition and educate those who have limited understanding about the condition. Sharing my own personal story hasn’t been easy and has often left me feeling vulnerable, however, I continue to speak out because I feel it is my purpose and supports my strong desire to contribute to the one thing I needed growing up……a community.
Denise Oduntan – Trustee
I want to challenge the negative perception often associated with those who are different.
I’ve chosen to challenge the perception that being different is socially unacceptable. In the past year, I became a trustee of the Vitiligo Society after my then 2 year old was diagnosed. I am choosing to challenge beauty standards and the attitudes that visible skin conditions such as vitiligo and many others are not ‘normal’. I am choosing to teach my son and help other mothers teach their children that they are beautiful, unique and special, irrespective of what makes them different to the other children in the classroom. I am choosing to work on building a community that is there to support one another and build each other up.
I have also chosen to challenge myself on the many pressures I have faced in society. Does it really matter if I’m a size 10 or a 14 (currently the latter), whether my house is spotless or lived in and homely? What matters is ultimately knowing myself, where I currently fit into this world and where I want to fit… not where society thinks I should fit.
I have challenged myself and in the process learned to love, accept myself and embrace the obstacles that we are often faced with in life….
Lisa Frontino – Trustee
I want to challenge the traditional roles placed on women from childhood and prove we are capable and brave enough to be who we want to be.
I’ve chosen to challenge the gender specific stereotypes placed upon us from childhood that have lead to many of us feeling as though we are restricted in so many places such as the workplace and the home. I want to break these stereotypes and make myself heard.
I choose to challenge by standing as an example for future generations of women and men and proving that we are unequivocally equal and free to be whatever we wish to be.
“Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re strongest when we cheer each other on” Serena Williams.