When I was growing up, some of the boldest and most courageous women I knew were my mum and her sisters. My mum’s now almost 86, happily settled in Australia surrounded by new generations of her family. But in the mid-1960s, she was starting her life again here, having left post-World War II Greece to seek a better life.
My memories of her and my aunts are of astute women who ran their own businesses, learned to drive and were actively engaged in the community. They were also the primary carers for their children and looked after the bulk of chores around the house.
That’s not to say the men in my family weren’t also busy and working hard. But what was different with the women was the additional family and community responsibilities they took on and the extra pressures they faced; the expectations placed on them because of their gender.
Looking back today, I can see the huge strides we’ve made towards gender equality. And yet we’re still seeing widespread challenges to the fundamental principles of equality. Things such as a woman’s right to her body – the right to make decisions about contraception and abortion or her right to wear what she chooses.
In supposedly advanced countries in the west, we’re seeing these rights challenged and undermined. Young women are being shouted down because they have an opinion and choose to express it.
When we hear about these things happening around the world, it must act as a reminder for every one of us to be vigilant about the preservation of equality.
Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we need to remind ourselves of everything that has been achieved in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality. Only by remembering the work of suffragettes like Emmeline Pankhurst and feminist activists like Gloria Steinem can we hope to preserve their legacy and build on it.
And I do feel positive about this. I feel very optimistic for my daughter and the young women in my life. The challenge for them is to find a way to stand up for what they believe; to chase their aspirations, in career and life. And like my mother and aunts, they too must learn to be bold and courageous even when the world tells them not to be.
On International Women’s Day, I hope you take the time to reflect on the theme – Be Bold for Change – and to celebrate all the wonderful women you know. Together, we can preserve and build on the progress we’ve already made towards a more inclusive and gender equal world.