International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women around the world. The theme of the day for 2016 is gender parity and people around the world are being invited to make a #PledgeForParity on social media.
Here some of our Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners talk about the work they are doing to fight for equality in their community.
Shamelle Rice founded Jabez House in Barbados – which provides vocational training and entrepreneurial opportunities to female sex workers.
Why did you start working in the area you do?
“After university I worked as a secondary school teacher for four years. However I have always had an overwhelming desire to assist women, particularly those who are vulnerable and disempowered. In Barbados prostitution is illegal and very taboo, but I discovered that women in the sex work community wanted services and programmes that catered specifically to them as they transitioned out of the work.
“Three years ago I founded Jabez House, which provides vocational training and entrepreneurial opportunities to female sex workers in a safe, non-judgmental environment. More than 50 women have gone through the programme and we have worked with another 300 sex workers during our weekly outreach programme. In 2014, I also started a weekly mentorship programme at the juvenile detention facility for girls, to provide them with a support system when they leave.”
Firhaana Bulbulia is the founder of the Barbados Association of Muslim Ladies. She also launched a project called Breaking Barriers, which aims to overcome cultural and social barriers some girls face in accessing education and gaining employment.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
“For me, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to get the message out about what we are doing, both within the context of the work I do in my community, but also as women across the world. Many people ask ‘are you trying to be more like men?’ But this is not what we are trying to achieve. There are women who want to progress in life, but they are facing barriers which aren’t present for men in this community and the world.
“International Women’s Day is great for educating people and celebrating women. It highlights the barriers women face and challenges society to create an equal environment for women to live in.”
Safaath Ahmed Zahir is the Secretary General of Women on Boards Maldives. Members work to encourage the government and businesses to consider broader female participation in their organisations.
Why is it important that young women and girls learn to get involved in their communities?
“There is nothing we can achieve by suppressing and dis-empowering our young women and girls. Our world has bigger problems ahead and we need to build ourselves together as a team to put an end to poverty, to cope with climate change, to bring prosperity to all of us and to make our world a better place for everyone.
“Our young women and girls are our next generation of leaders, alongside our young men and boys, and they should be raised to make good choices.”
Seini Fisi’Ihoi volunteers for a number of local organisations in Papua New Guinea, including the Advancing PNG Women Leaders Network, which supports women in management.
How will the Queen’s Young Leaders Award help you to assist women in your community?
“The Queen’s Young Leaders Award has already started assisting women in my communities through my involvement. During my last trip around Southern Highlands and Gulf Provinces, we managed to get donations of sanitation packs, including bathing soap, menstrual pads and toothbrushes, from a local company. They were small, everyday items but they meant a lot to the women in those remote areas and helped them to feel connected to other areas of Papua New Guinea. We used the donations to emphasise the message that while we may be from different areas, we face the same issues and we must never feel alone.
“The idea that Her Majesty the Queen is recognising the efforts of young people, has also inspired people to look towards their youth and see the potential future leaders. I appreciate seeing how inspired others are of my Award and actually when I think about it, the Award is theirs too. I am only one person that represents hundreds of leaders from Papua New Guinea who are working hard to make positive change.”