To celebrate International Women’s Day 2014, I hosted an event at City Hall where 100 leading women across London met with 100 aspiring young women, with the aim of inspiring change and passing on the baton of fighting for women’s equality.
I was joined by guest speakers, headed by the author and playwright, Bonnie Greer, who each gave their take on how far women have come in the fight for equality, but how much more there is to do. The speakers – Rena Amin, Head of Neasden Temple’s Women’s Network; Kath Moore, Project Co-ordinator at Tools4Change; Susan Fajana-Thomas, Co-ordinator of Islington Community Safety Board; Holly Dustin, Director of End Violence Against Women Coalition; and Lambeth Youth Mayor, Jacqueline Gomes-Neves – covered topics including politics, faith and religion, policing and crime, international development and human rights.
Holly Dustin captured the mood of the night perfectly by paying tribute to the women who, throughout history, have made huge strides towards equality, but highlighted that, even now, while Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial into the death of Reeva Steenkamp is taking place, Paddy Power offered its customers a ‘money back if he walks’ deal, and, in doing so, literally turned the killing of a woman into a game.
International Women’s Day is such an important event in the fight for equality, and one that I have supported since it was formally recognised by the UN in 1996. In all my work, I have fought for women’s equality – and equality across the board – and it’s days like International Women’s Day that play such an important part in raising public awareness about the issues that women face in London, in the UK and across the world.
At the same time, it is so important to make sure that the work for women’s equality does not start and end with one day a year. As our speakers demonstrated, women in general have come a long way since the days of not being eligible to vote and wholly living lives of domesticity and servitude, but there is so much further to go – here in the UK and in developed and developing countries around the world.
When we look at our politicians, business leaders and religious figures, there are very few women in their ranks. And when we look at statistics around crime, discrimination and poverty, it is women that bear the brunt. As such, we must continue the fight, and I was delighted to host so many young women at City Hall to give us the opportunity of passing on the baton to them to continue working for equality for women now and in the future.