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#IWD2020: Speaking Out For Change

Mar 06, 2020
A focal point in the movement for women’s rights, International Women's Day is a powerful global platform that brings governments, organisations, corporations and charities from across the world together to recognise the achievements of women who’ve used their voices to incite positive change.

An annual day honouring working women was first proposed by German revolutionary Clara Zetkin at the 1910 International Socialist Woman's Conference, and every March 8th since, we’ve used this date to take a step back and appreciate the many incarnations of womanhood. In the build-up to International Women's Day 2020, we’re shining a spotlight on the women who’ve made a huge impact in the worlds of music, literature and oratory – including four activists using the power of the spoken word to make our world a better place for everyone in it, regardless of gender.  

GINA MARTIN
 
Who is she?
She’s not a politician, she’s not a lawyer – but she is a law-changer. 

What did she do?
After finding herself a victim of up-skirting at a festival, Gina Martin reported the incident the police, and was shocked to discover it was not classified as a specific offence. Once she found out the law wasn’t on her – or any other victim’s – side, she took matters into her own hands, campaigning across social media for a change in law. If you’re not entirely sure what the term ‘upskirting’ refers to, it’s the previously overlooked and underestimated practice of taking intrusive, non-consensual photos, usually by pointing the camera up the clothing of an unaware individual. Because of Gina’s campaign, upskirting is now illegal across the UK, with offenders facing jail-time of up to two years – an impressive feat that only took her 18 months, total. 

Why does it matter?
Firstly, a violating, non-consensual act which was once legal, now isn’t – ensuring countless people are protected from a degrading, humiliating experience. Iit’s a testament to the power of the people to incite change, and a lesson in using social media as a positive, revolutionary force. 
 
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ

Who is she?
Popularly known as AOC, she’s a politician and activist who’s been alternately referred to as ‘the future of the Democratic party’ and a ‘nightmare for America.’ On June 26, 2018, she made history by becoming the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress.

What did she do?
A political phenomenon and cultural icon, Ocasio-Cortez represents three cornerstones of her party’s electoral base – she’s a young Hispanic woman, and moreover, she’s a democratic socialist, something that appeals to progressive millennials who’re quickly losing confidence in capitalism. Part activist, part legislator, her undeniable star power and commitment to fighting for a future where no person is left behind has seen her successfully pressure 2020 presidential candidates into supporting her Green New Deal and made campaign-finance reform go viral. Her recently announced political action committee, Courage to Change, seeks to endorse progressive outsiders in her party and bring more women into the halls of power. 

Why does it matter?
As a third generation Puerto-Rican woman from a working class family, Ocasio-Cortez’s mission is to fundamentally change a political system that excludes youth, women and people of colour. Now that she has her own campaign money to spend, she’s using it to do exactly that.

GRETA
Who is she?
“A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future,” now 17 years old, Greta Thunberg is also a Swedish youth activist responsible for leading the biggest climate strike in history. 

What did she do?
Known for her blunt speaking style, Thunberg is one of the world’s most prominent voices, and has received worldwide recognition for her efforts to fight climate change. Not only that, but her activism has created a global shift in attitude and galvanised a worldwide movement for urgent action. It began in 2018 when she launched the "Fridays for Future" movement, encouraging students to strike in a bid to pressurise lawmakers and leaders into cutting carbon emissions. Since then, Thunberg has met with global leaders to negotiate recommitment to the Paris Agreement and travelled across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions yacht to attend the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City, where she delivered a tearful, impassioned speech. Just a day before, 4 million people across 161 countries joined her in a strike— the largest climate demonstration in history. Thunberg has also spoken publically and positively about her Asperger's diagnosis and next plans to travel to Mexico, Canada and South America, and see first-hand the regions most affected by climate change.

Why does it matter?
Thunberg’s message has not been universally well-received, but her actions have influenced millions of young people across the globe and taken a behind-the-curtain conversation centre-stage – all starting with a simple message on a white board. 
 
TANNI

Who is she?
Tanni Grey-Thompson is a global ambassador for disability sport, a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, and Britain's greatest ever Paralympic athlete. 

What did she do?
Born with spina bifida and confined to a wheelchair from the age of seven, Grey-Thompson began wheelchair racing at 13. Demonstrating incredible versatility and stamina throughout her competitive athletic career, she has broken 30 world record total, and won 16 medals – 11 of them gold – at five Paralympic Games, and another 12 at the World Championships. She has also won the London Wheelchair Marathon six times, including in 2002, when she competed just three months after giving birth to daughter Carys. Following her retirement from Paralympic sports in 2007, she’s sat on numerous boards from the National Disability Council and the Sports Council for Wales and UK Sport to TfL and the London Legacy Development Corporation. In 2010, she became an independent peer in the British House of Lords, taking the title Baroness Grey-Thompson of Eaglescliffe, and uses her platform to advocate for disability rights and welfare reform. 

Why does it matter?
A hugely respected athlete with a remarkable medal haul, Tanni Grey-Thompson has inspired millions with her unwavering determination. Not only is she an international sporting hero, but her work away from the track has highlighted the everyday thoughtlessness and prejudice disabled people endure, and paved the way towards a more inclusive future. 

Each of these women embody the spirit of this years International Women's Day campaign, #EachforEqual - but you don't need a global platform to make a difference. We're celebrating the talent of women across PHMG - and the world - by facilitating a series of workshops hosted by female members of staff, for all. And as well as our own star speakers, we’ve also invited PHMG partner Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, DBE to join us as part of the celebrations. Keep an eye on our Instagram page for updates, images and videos for our week on women's workshops.