International Women’s Day
The day has important connections with working women’s rights, and in 2017, there was a strike entitled ‘a Day Without Women.’ This saw entire school systems close for the day, as women make up around 75% of schoolteachers. Those who were not able to strike wore red to show solidarity.
Every year, we honour thousands of women who have made important contributions to family and public life. At the start of 2018 Birmingham Remembers launched a campaign to shine a light on strong women throughout the city. A social media call helped to find 30 inspiring women to profile. Then, a team of young female writers from the Spark Young Writers group (Writing West Midlands) created a shortlist.
This resulted in ‘Once Upon a Time in Birmingham: Women Who Dared to Dream’, a beautifully illustrated book with a short biography of each figure. With sportswomen, media stars and university lecturers among the shortlist, this book celebrates the female talent in our city. A female team produced it, including female illustrators and an independent publisher The Emma Press, based in the Jewellery Quarter.
One of the women in ‘Once Upon a Time in Birmingham’ is the young activist Malala Yousafzai, who became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. In October 2012, she was shot on the left side of her head by a Taliban gunman while on the bus to school. She had been blogging for BBC Urdu about the ban on girls’ education since the age of 11.
Recovering at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, she chose to remain here with her family. She recently described the city as her ‘second home’, although she had to work hard to understand the Brummie accent!
When she was 16, she set up the Malala Fund, which works to provide all girls with 12 years of free, quality education. The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery recently housed a portrait in her honour, by artist Shirin Neshat. It includes a poem by the Pashto poet Rahmat Shah Sayel, describing her as ‘determined, undefeated and strong.’
Malala is one example of a woman who used her courage and intelligence to stand up for female rights. We encourage you to honour the women in your life, and especially with Mother’s Day coming up on the 14th of March, perhaps you could take the time to celebrate a parent or guardian.
A Brief History of International Women’s Day (thoughtco.com)
Malala – National Portrait Gallery (npg.org.uk)
Louise Palfreyman, Once Upon a Time In Birmingham: Women Who Dared to Dream (Birmingham: The Emma Press, 2018)
The Emma Press Ltd – small press, big dreams
Malala Yousafzai tells Desert Island Discs: ‘Birmingham has become a second home’ – BBC News
COMING HOME: Malala Yousafzai – National Portrait Gallery (npg.org.uk)