Do we need role models? I saw this question on twitter this week and it got me thinking about how I'm quite independent and don't really need people - male or female - to look up to. At least that's what I THOUGHT I thought.
But after that initial reaction, amazing women who have definitely inspired me kept coming to mind, and I started to appreciate how key they have been to my development as a strong woman who believes she can make a difference.
For International Women's Day, then, a few of my favourite inspiring women:
Anita Roddick, Founder of the Body Shop and environmental and social activist.
Growing up in the 80s, Body Shop's container re-use, refusal to test on animals, fair sourcing of ingredients, and strident support of contentious campaigns was exciting and eye-opening. Later Anita's book 'Take It Personally: How to make Conscious Choices to Change The World' was enough to make me start to see that I had power - and responsibility - in the way I lived my daily life. In 2004 I heard her speak at Greenbelt Festival, and came away with her challenge that simply boycotting companies that exploited their workers wasn't enough - you need to tell them you are, and why.
Danielle Strickland, Speaker, Author, Social Justice Advocate. I've heard Danielle speak of amazing things from wisdom gained through working with Salvation Army for 22 years, but the thing that really struck recently was a story from her teens of her mum saying she needed more balance. She looked at Jesus, at church history, and recent history, and realised everyone who had ever done anything meaningful was unbalanced! As someone who occasionally puts too much store in the vagueness of balance and contentment, this set me alight!
My 'Auntie' Jo, nurse, midwife, health visitor in Brazil, Sudan, Somerset and elsewhere. Okay, Jo Sully wasn't famous (though her funeral showed just how many people she'd inspired), but as a child she showed me how much a tough woman could do, even in the 1960s. Single all her life, she meant I never felt I needed a man to complete me. A church leader before anyone had quite worked out if that was okay, because who could doubt the leadership gifting of someone who's delivered babies miles up the Amazon as a young woman?
There are many more - I feel like every time I read the biography of an inspiring man from the past there's an intelligent fiery mum behind the story!
I asked my kids last night who their famous Female Role Model would be and was really relieved that neither boy questioned why they would need a female one (look at Twitter if you're wondering if men really still do have issues with honouring Women's Day). Here's what they said:
Joe, 15: Emma Watson and Michelle Obama - both don't have elected political positions, but they've used their fame and their position to speak out and make a difference. He's quoting both of them in the first 'Speakers Corner' in his school library this week.
Bo, 14: Emma Watson, and if you're allowed a fictional character, Kamala Khan/ Ms Marvel, his number one favourite comic hero . Still grateful to the comic shop owner in Nottingham who suggested Ms Marvel a few years ago when Bo asked for recommendations for Marvel comics that didn't have 'women in inappropriate clothes' after we'd accidentally bought some pretty horrific vintage comics.
Eliza, 10: Also Ms Marvel, and Mae Jemison, astronaut. This is all thanks to the Lego Women of Nasa set, and Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, which Eliza has completely devoured despite finding reading hard. I'm struck by how clearly this shows the importance of real women's stories being shared in toys and books, and slightly relieved she didn't say a really irritating YouTuber!
See how Lost Shapes supplier Stanley/Stella is working with factories in Bangladesh to protect female workers from sexual harassment here.
Picture credits: 1. Anna Brindle, badge from The Frome Independent; 2. Rex Features; 3. Akio Nakamura; 4. DanielleStrickland.com; 5. UN; 6. Marvel; 7. lego.
NO MORE BLOGGING
I stopped writing this blog a while ago - social media just seems a more responsive way to share ideas these days (plus I never got 'round to it!). I'll leave these posts up for now for anyone who wants to get a bit more of a sense of what's behind what I do.