On Sunday March 8th, International Women’s Day will be celebrated throughout the world to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of all who identify as women, and also serve as a call to action to improve women’s equality worldwide. The theme this year is #Eachforequal, with the idea that "an equal world is an enabled world." Through individual decisions to challenge stereotypes and gender bias, open our horizons and therefore improve the global situation for women, we can create an equal world, which is an enabled world.

To me, this year’s IWD offers us the opportunity to reflect on the amazing successes that women have already achieved, and channel their dedication and grit to continue to promote equality worldwide, and on smaller scales, such as within our university. For me, it also highlights parallels between gender inequality and other current socioeconomic issues, such as period poverty, and how climate change will impact the role and perception of women in the coming years, notably those already suffering due to the impact of the environment. 

* If you were feeling the urge to ask, yes, there is an International Men’s Day, it will be celebrated this year on Thursday 19th November. *

My favourite parts about being a student at Warwick:

I am currently in my third year studying Modern Languages (Spanish, Italian, Russian) at Warwick, which surprisingly means I knew quite a lot about IWD before, as it is a huge celebration in Russia! Personally, what has defined my time here has been the support and care I have received from my departments. Languages are quite small departments, and you get the sense that everyone knows everyone. In my experience, this has really benefited me. Through monthly Skype calls with my personal tutor on my Year Abroad, support from the Italian department when the work has got too much, and the fact that there is always someone to say hello to in the humanities building, I certainly have felt welcomed whilst studying here. It was this "home-away-from-home" quality that really made Warwick stand out to me on the open days. 

Unfortunately, Warwick has, in the last two years, been in the news for an extremely terrible situation, which I will not discuss further here, out of respect for those who have already suffered due to the ongoing outrage. What I can say, first as a language student, is how exceptionally I think my department and the School of Modern Language and Cultures dealt with the consequences. Moreover, as a female student at Warwick, certain steps are being taken to improve the university experience for women, some of my favourites being:

– Ask for Angela: In any university-run food or drinks outlet, there is a system in place where if anyone goes to the counter due to being in an uncomfortable and perhaps threatening situation, and asks if Angela is in, the staff will immediately support them and help them out of danger. 

– The SU Women’s Officer: This is a part-time position, currently shared by Tara and Bede (2019-2020) which is dedicated to lobbying the university to improve the experience for women at Warwick. In the last year, these two have helped reduce period poverty by lobbying for free sanitary products in every university toilet, helped reduced the stigma surrounding sex-workers on campus, and helped hold the university to account with its #wegetconsent campaign. Whilst I write this blog, the elections for next years candidates are ongoing, and I can only hope that the newly elected officer continues to engage women on campus, to best assist their needs, celebrate their achievements, and continue enhancing Warwick as a university for everyone. 

What is the biggest challenge you think women face today?

I think women today face new challenges, as there is a perception of equality within society, which is far from perfect, that many don’t feel the need to challenge. As Warwick exemplifies, no society, be it a nation or a university, is perfect, and all must continue to collaborate #eachforequal to promote an environment that is safe, welcoming and offers opportunity for all. 

What advice would you give to female students?

University students nowadays face both new opportunities and new threats, and my advice to all female students is to continue engaging in these debates, to help facilitate equality for everyone. Regrettably, issues relating to consent, violence and inequality will probably play some role during your time at university, regardless of where you choose to go. However, with regards to Warwick, by communal education, we can all continue to strive for a safer university experience for everyone. No one, regardless of any factor, should have to limit their liberty of expression due to fear of intolerance. 

Moreover, make use of all the services available to women at Warwick. Be it active-bystander training, the personal-tutor and senior-tutor schemes within each departments, the well-being services, campus security, who are excellent with dealing with any emergencies, and of course, the SU women’s officer, there is always possibilities to learn, be listened to, and receive help. 

Is there a women you look to for inspiration?

Countless, and new ones everyday, both within Warwick and internationally. However, as a way to mark the ongoing successes of women, I will mention a woman who inspires me, and sadly recently passed away: Katherine Johnson, an incredible woman who shamefully had to fight both racial and gender barriers within 1960’s America. By calculating the precise trajectories that would let Apollo 11 land on the moon in 1969, she was a pioneer for BAME women in science, something that the current IWD is hoping to continue promoting. Her determination and grit to succeed in the face of inequality is a reminder to all women what we can achieve. And yet, with her passing, it serves as a stern example of how much more she could have discovered, were it not for racial and gender-based discrimination. Her life is documented within the film Hidden Figures, which also highlights other pioneering black women in maths, who have shamefully been written out of history. 

To all women, wherever you are, I say to you: Happy International Women’s Day!

Cover image produced on canva

For more information: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/