Three women hand painted illustration by Tink Outside the Box Octavia Bromell

Illustration by Octavia Brommel (@tinkoutsidethebox)

To mark International Women’s Day 2019, Sophia Greppi, emerging theatre maker and Culture+ Events and Projects assistant talks about how bringing about change means more than just a single day of celebrating women, and what we can do every day to make a difference in the fight for equality.

2018 marked the 100 year anniversary of (some) women gaining the vote in the UK, and what followed was a year of marches, movements, and campaigns. Here at The Arts Development Company, we got involved with the national Vote 100 project, working with young women from a variety of backgrounds to create a screenplay exploring their perspectives on citizenship and democracy.

Now in 2019 on International Women’s Day especially, it is important to keep this momentum going.

Is one day enough?

The first Women’s Day was in 1909, organised by the Socialist Party of America in New York. 110 years later, women’s achievements are still seen as a day on the calendar, rather than an everyday occurrence. There are women changing the world every single day, in so many different ways.

The 1908 garment strike which led to the first women's day in 1909

The 1908 garment strike which led to the first women’s day in 1909

In my opinion, a single day devoted to highlighting the achievements of women and the challenges they face is not enough. We should be striving for a time when equality is everyday conversation between everyday people.

International Women’s Day is a wonderful starting point, but it’s important to think of it as just that: a starting point. We have come an incredible long way in the past 100 years, but we still have so far to go.

“My gender is not an event”

Women are not a feature to make an organisation seem more diverse. We are still complicit with some arts and culture organisations that offer short celebrations of women, but then fail to represent female figures the rest of the year. Whether in art, literature, theatre, science, history, or any other field of work, it is still commonplace.

If we are so celebratory of women, why do we a require scheduled time to showcase them? Why is it so hard to create a gender-balanced programme which can run throughout the year?

We explored this issue in a previous post discussing the lack of diverse programming, especially queer female representation in theatre here.

I believe that limited representation within programming can be extremely damaging to younger people. My gender is not a ‘special event’ or a diversity tick box, it is who I am. It is who my mother was. It is who the women who fought and are still fighting for rights and the basic idea of equality are. We deserve more than this. We deserve an equal voice.

‘Future generations deserve to grow up knowing that the building of the world in which they live is not just the result of one gender, but a shared effort of the entire human race.’


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How can we turn a day into a year?

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, which focuses on the idea of creating a more gender-balanced world. As the IWD site itself says, this is not something we should be focusing on for just a day! Being active and working to bring about change throughout the year is how movements like International Women’s Day can become an even greater success. Here are some ideas to help inspire your year:

  • Become aware of events you can attend year-round. This list, provided by Stylist, will be updated all year with new events every month. From panel discussions, to music events, to marches, there’s something to suit everyone.
  • Or if you are unable to attend national events, think locally instead. There’s a meeting of female artists, musicians and traders running in Bournemouth on International Women’s Day, and there’s nothing to stop you running your own mini events.
  • Support local female artists! We are lucky enough to work with some incredible Dorset-based artists, such as Octavia Bromell (who’s illustration can be found on this post) and Sarah Hough. Gaining recognition as a creative is never easy, and is made even harder for women; supporting your local female artists can make a world of difference.
  • Expand your bookshelf! This list is a great starting point for those wanting to read more works – fiction and non-fiction by female writers.
  •  Try The Guilty Feminist Podcast on your next commute; these women discuss the problems women face today, and the problem with us defining what a ‘real’ feminist is.
  • Start conversations with others; be willing to listen to others as well as expressing your own thoughts. Words are the greatest tool we have when it comes to bringing about action. Speaking out about gender issues is the first step towards making a change.
  • Look into helping out with a women’s charity, whether it be local or global. Donate time, money, or resources to a worthy cause. For global, charities like Women for Women is a great cause, or if you’re thinking more local, why not check out what you can do to help Friends of Bournemouth Women’s Refuge

Your thoughts on how to celebrate

Don’t limit yourself to just a day. Little movements everyday can progress us to equality, to the point where we are no longer a feature, but an equal member of the human race.

For more everyday activism inspiration, check out Bustle’s article about how everyday is a chance to make a difference in the fight for equality.

Do you have any suggestions to add to this? Can you recommend any artists, authors, filmmakers, or other female figures you think we should celebrate? Let us know in the comments below. Or you can tweet us , share with us on Instagram, or find us on Facebook

Join in with the national International Women’s Day campaign on Twitter using the hashtags #IWD2019 and #BalanceForBetter.

Featured illustration by Octavia Bromell Tink Outside the Box