The afternoon session of Women In The World followed a similar pattern to the morning but was no less powerful for it.
Kicking off with an interview with Catherine Mayer, Co-Founder of the Women’s Equality Party, we were reminded you can’t change anything unless you are willing to do something about it.
All of the participants have astounding records of taking action and effecting change – not just talking about it or developing an academic solution. Although Women In The World was a discussion format, it certainly left the audience in no doubt that they we were to be inspired to act. In fact, Dr Margaret Aderin-Pocock told the audience we had a responsibility to share whatever skills we had for the betterment of all women.
The commitment to effect change was even true of teenager Abibatu, an Ebola survivor from Sierra Leone. She and her brother are the only members of her family to survive the deadly outbreak. Before becoming ill, Abibatu was a Plan youth advocate working with other young people to address unplanned teenage pregnancies in her community. Despite her terrible loss, and being disowned by her remaining relatives for being ‘cursed’ by Ebola, Abibatu has returned to her work helping others.
Equally uplifting was the story of Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, Director of St. Monica’s Girls Tailoring Centre in Uganda. Sister Rosemary takes in girls who have been forced to marry and tend Joseph Coney’s LRA soldiers. After seeing unimaginable brutality and being subjected to sexual violence from a young age these girls are unwanted in their communities. Sister Rosemary teaches them skills find a role in society and in turn rediscover they sense of self-worth. The school makes clothes and backs from recycled materials. Her motto ‘from trash to treasure’ was the most poignant sound bite of the day.
A little closer to home, Nicola Sturgeon used the platform to talk about legislation she has introduced in the Scottish Parliament to tackle the stubbornly high incidence of domestic violence in Scotland. As impressive as this was, her remarks on quotas for women in the board room got the applause. So many politicians talk about progress and winning people round one by one. Not Sturgeon. She wants this generation of women to put inequality to bed once and for all. Quite the ambition, but as one of the only states in the world with a Government that has a 50/50 split, her commitment is clear.
We were further reminded of Nicola Sturgeon’s mission when Mhiari Black, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, and youngest MP in Parliament for 350 years took the stage to talk about her experience as a young, female in Westminster. She quite rightly questioned how a parliament can truly represent everyone in society if the representation within Government is so narrow.
As the day draws to a close, we leave the room feeling empowered and inspired. We’ve heard from a plethora of women who at the hands of injustice, violence, and inequality have defied all odds, succeeded and most importantly have the passion to share their experience to help others.