International Women's Day Logo

We had our annual celebration for International Women’s Day 2020 on 6 March at King’s. Equality, Diversity & Inclusion were proud to partner with The Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, the student-led King’s Think Tank and Elevate, King’s Gender Equality Network. I particularly loved opening the event alongside Professor Rosie Campbell and listening to Julia Gillard close.

This blog captures some of that to share with those who couldn’t attend.

International Women’s Day, which has been marked since 1911, is normally celebrated annually on 8 March. The day is neither country, group nor organization specific. It belongs to all groups and to all types of women collectively, everywhere. It is a global day for celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. And it marks a call to action for accelerating intersectional gender parity. This year’s theme was equality.

Maya Angelou spoke of International Women’s Day as a day for women to remind ourselves of our female power and, importantly, for men to remember their feminine aspects too. Angelou said that we all have both powers – feminine and masculine – and that it’s up to us to balance these aspects and cherish them.

She wrote this poem to make a change in the world.

The world needs a change and it starts with you.

A black and white photograph of Maya Angelou

Where are you little girl with broken wings but full of hope? Where are you wise woman covered in wounds?

Where are you? Where are you? Where are you?

Today is the day I will not sit still and give in anymore, today I rise.

I am bruised but I will get up and walk again, today I rise.

I don’t care if you ignore my beauty, today I rise.

Through the alchemy of my darkest night, I heal and thrive, today I rise.

I move through the world with confidence and grace. I open my eyes and am ready to face my wholeness as a woman and my limitless capacities. I will walk my path with audacity, today I rise.

I reconnect with the many aspects of myself. I am in awe of the reality I can create. I am a queen, I am a healer, a wise woman, a wild woman. I will rise and be.

I am a rebel I will wake up and fight. I am a mother and I am a child. I will no longer disguise my sadness and pain, I will no longer suffer and complain. I am black and I am white. There’s no reason to hide.

Where are you? Where are you?

I call upon Kali to kiss me to life. I transform my power and anger, no more heartache or strife. The world is missing what I am ready to give, my wisdom, my sweetness, my love and my hunger for peace.

I weep with the trees and the rivers and the earth in distress. I rise and shine and am ready to go on my quest.

Today I rise without doubt or hesitation, today I rise without excuses, without procrastination.

Today I call upon my sisters to join a movement of resoluteness and concern. Today is my call into action, to fulfil my mission without further distraction.

Today is the day, today I will start, to offer the world the wisdom of my heart.

In writing this poem, Angelou was urging us to make International Women’s Day our day and do what we can to truly make a positive difference for women by thinking globally and acting locally. International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action, whatever that may look like globally at a local level.

Rosie and Julia in their openings and closings both brought home how gender equality and participation impacts every part of public policy and everyone’s everyday health, peace and security.

During the event, we used Essays on Equality, a new publication from the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, a collection that provides research-informed reflections on the fight for women’s equality, as a discussion prompt. It was truly enriching to wander round the room listening to 70+ women from all over the King’s community and beyond discuss these essays, their personal experiences and perspectives.

Julia talked about the results from a survey carried out by Ipsos MORI and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership of over 20,000 people in 27 countries, the results of which were released that day, on what acceptable behaviour in the workplace is.

Please take some time to look over the essay collection and the new survey information on the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership website.