By Zahra Ali
London, Mar 08: Today’s interactive animation on Google displays inspirational quotes from thirteen female trailblazers to mark the annual celebration of International Women’s Day. Showcasing the words in multiple languages, artists from around the world (India, Nigeria and Brazil to name a few countries) were commissioned to bring the empowering messages to life.
Melissa Crowton, the American illustrator who designed the opening image depicting the word ‘woman’ in eleven different languages said, “each element is unique in shape, texture, and size, which I found to be an apt representation of the beauty of our community”. She wanted her work to reflect the diversity of women because there is no one woman of the world – we are all uniquely different. Her illustration speaks to the intersectional nature of society, acknowledging how factors such as age, race and religion impact our individual experiences as women.
The first of the quotes highlighted by this series comes from lead suffragist, Millicent Fawcett who famously said that “courage calls to courage everywhere”. Campaigning for six decades, she played a key role in pioneering peaceful protests,gaining women the right to voteand founding Newnham College at Cambridge.Her efforts were iconically memorialised last year in the form of a statueacross from the Houses of Parliament in London. It is not only the first ever monument of a woman in Parliament Square, it is also the first to be created by a female artist (Gillian Wearing), making it twice as significant. She now stands alongside eleven other figures including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and numerous male prime ministers.
Standing proud for the first International Women’s Day since its unveiling in April 2018, Millicent’s statue is a symbol of multiple messages. It’s a deserving nod to her past contributions and shows girls that they too can be immortalised in bronze casting. It also serves as a reminder that the suffragist’s efforts cannot be the end of the road for equality, especially since men still outnumber women 2:1 in Westminster. How can legislation be well informed and representative if the people making decisions are primarily men? Movements such as the ‘50:50’campaignaim to tackle this imbalance by calling for equal representation of women in Parliament. Today, the statue of Fawcett holding a plaque of her famous words reminds passers-by and nearby policymakers that it often only takes one courageous person to inspire many, many more.
Still, International Women’s Day is more than the ‘Google Doodle’ changing to acknowledge the occasion. The 8th of March is a globally recognised day that pays homage to the socio-economic, cultural and political achievements of women - both past and present. Having occurred for over a century, it is a day that has evolved alongside society, celebrating female progression from women gaining the right to work and vote, to their contributions in sport, arts and STEM industries.
No matter the pace, headway is always being made toward equality and empowerment. Let’s take this week for example – in sporting news, England’s Lionesses football squad won the ‘SheBelieves’ Cup for the first time, a great indicator of their potential for this summer’s World Cup. And in the cinematic universe, Marvel have released their first female-led blockbuster over a decade after the superhero franchise started in 2008. The premiere of Captain Marvel nicely (and intentionally) coincides with International Women’s Day, reminding us of the influence that fictional characters can have on the real world. Some people may dismiss it as just another superhero film, but it is so much more - we need to see strong female leads on the big screen. After all, art reflects life and vice versa.
We can confidently say that society has come a long way since the first International Women’s Day in 1911. But what we mustn’t forget is that there is still much to be done. Females are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, they are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.We can do better. And so, the 8th of March provides us with the opportunity to celebrate, reflect and continue to revolutionise. It’s a day that acknowledges how far we have come and promises that today’s young girls won’t have to suffer through past injustices. And perhaps most importantly, it encourages us to question what else needs to change.
International Women’s Day is bigger than any one person and each year, the event seems to grow in scale. It is truly global in nature and for many around the world it is now a public holiday. Afghanistan, Cambodia, Uganda and Russia are just some of the countries that mark the occasion nationally, with China, Nepal and Madagascar doing so exclusively for women. While traditions may vary place to place, the message is one and the same – the better the balance, the better the world.
So, whether or not you read through the inspiringquotes highlighted by today’s Google Doodle or you commit to joining the next women’s march, take a moment to appreciate the females in your life and the contributions they make – big and small. The team at British Asia News wish you a happy International Women’s Day and leave you with this quote from Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Adichie:
“I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only’, not ‘as long as’. I matter full-stop.”