International Women’s Day takes place every year on March 8th with a different theme. This year’s theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’, as every day we can choose to challenge inequality and gender bias. Here are just some of the inspirational women across the UK that we should be celebrating today.
Dr Asel Sartbaeva
Asel was declared one of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s 175 faces of Chemistry in 2018. Since then, she has been conducting research and lecturing at The University of Bath.
Bristol expert Ameeta Virk is one of the most influential people in the country for UK-India relations. She has been recognised in the past for her work with South West companies, and since moving to the UK from California, has founded an e-commerce company for luxury childrenswear.
Georgina Moseley lost her son Harry in 2011 to a brain tumour. Leading up to his death, Harry raised £650,000 for Cancer Research UK and was declared Britain’s kindest kid. Georgina founded the ‘Help Harry Help Others Charity’ and has been helping people liing with cancer and their families across the UK.
Ellie Simmonds is one of the UK’s most popular athletes and has ten world records as well as four Paralympic Gold Medals. She was also the youngest British competitor at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008.
This award-winning international Journalist has created a range of engaging and inspiring content throughout her career, including ‘Running to beat suicide’. Ruth is now a PR and Communications Officer at Active Sussex, and her projects have positively impacted the community.
Founder of The Social Society, event organiser, coach and charity consultant Toni Finnimore is well known in the Brighton community. She helps children with learning disabilities and connects people via an online community. Some of the causes that Toni has helped include The Real Junk Food Project, Audio Active and Soapbox Postcards.
Trade Union activist Jessie Stephen was the first woman President of Bristol Trades Council. During her time as a councillor, she was also a suffragette, and she worked for better conditions for domestic workers.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979, Penny Brohn co-founded a charity centre with her friend. The centre was called the Bristol Cancer Help Centre and offered patients complementary therapy. She died in 1999, but the centre remains a leading cancer charity.
Professor Farah Bhatti
Farah Bhatti is the first female consultant cardiac surgeon in Wales. She is also the first British woman of Pakistani heritage to be appointed as a consultant cardiac surgeon in the UK and the first Muslim woman to be elected as a Royal College of Surgeons Council Member.
This postwoman has been named as one of the best-loved post people in Wales. During the lockdown, she dressed as a rainbow and brought a little bit of joy to those who were self-isolating.
Louise Bennett OBE DL
Louise has been the Chief Executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce since 2003 and received an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list back in 2007. Since then, Louise has served on the School Board of Governors, as well as college and university boards. But her passion for helping children does not stop there, and Louise is also an approved foster carer.
Carla Mendonca was born in Coventry and studied Theatre and Dramatic Art at The University of Warwick. She has starred in numerous films and tv series and brings joy to the public through her work.
Born in Edinburgh in 1900, Elizabeth Watson is Scotland’s youngest suffragette. At age 9, she and her mother joined their Women’s Social and Political Union. Soon after, Elizabeth continued to be involved in the Suffragette movement and played her bagpipes at Waverly Station as convicted women’s rights campaigners were taken to jail. She died in 1992 but remains Edinburgh’s youngest suffragette.
Elsie Inglis founded the Scottish Women’s Suffrage Federation and also set up a maternity hospital on The Royal Mile for underprivileged women. She also established 14 hospital units across Europe during the first world war.
In 2019 Selina Hales set up Charity Refuweegie, which helps refugees who arrive in Glasgow. It provides them with everything they need in a new country, including a personal welcome.
Soul Food Sisters
This non for profit organisation is made up of a group of migrant women who are creating a strong female-led collective around something everyone enjoys, food! When they meet, they share recipes and ideas, plus they even have a cafe in Gallowgate.
In 2000 Jane Tomlinson was given just 6 months to live, but she instead battled her terminal disease and completed four London Marathons, two triathlons, and an Ironman challenge. If this wasn’t impressive enough, she also cycled across Europe and the United States, raising almost £2 million in the process. A few months before her death in 2007, Jane also received a CBE.
Sue Ryder is a name we all know due to the hundreds of charity stores across the UK. Sue helped others her whole life, right up until her death in 2000. She began helping people during the second world war by finding places for people to live after their homes had been destroyed. After the war, she spent her life supporting people with life-threatening conditions across the UK.
Claudia Webbe MP
Politician Claudia Webbe was born and raised in Leicester, and she has been an MP for Leicestershire since 2019. Before this, Claudia was a councillor in London’s borough of Islington, where she worked on a project to clean up the air for the borough’s schoolchildren.
Natasha Mina has been the Leicestershire ambassador for ‘This Girl Can’ since 2015 and has helped more than 50,000 people. It is her mission to spread the benefit of physical activity and supports women all over the county.
Midwife Annmaria Ellard works at Liverpool Women’s Hospital as a miscarriage nurse. Over the years, she has helped thousands of women through both the pain and heartbreak of losing a baby by offering them hope through her professional and compassionate care.
After 5 years of campaigning, Marie McCourt was able to get ‘Helen’s Law’ passed. Marie’s daughter Helen went missing in 1988, and a man was convicted of her murder, yet was released from prison in 2020 despite never revealing where her body was hidden. Helen’s Law came into effect in January of this year and means that parole can be denied to killers who refuse to give the whereabouts of their victim’s body.
Dina Asher-Smith is the fastest woman in British History, and in October 2019, she won the gold medal at the World Championships for the 200m dash and set a new British record for the 100m.
Former England Rugby Captain Catherine Spencer is both an inspirational sportswoman, a businesswoman, and a female activist. Catherine also founded ‘Inspiring Women’, a speaking agency where coaches from the sports industry share their experiences with those that can learn from them.
For more than 20 years, Lydia Ina was a foster carer and cared for the vulnerable children of Manchester. Lydia also founded the Gapolunya Foundation, which provides street children in Nigeria with food, shelter, and education.
Dr Erinma Bell
Peace activist Erinma Bell is well known for her social justice in Manchester. Erinma received an MBE in 2010 and was made Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester in 2011. Plus, if that wasn’t inspirational enough, Erinma was also the first woman to be commemorated with a statue in Manchester Town Hall.
During her time at university, Diana Hunter became a victim of rape. The incident caused her to become depressed and rely on alcohol and comfort eating. But one day, she turned her life around and now is an inspiration who teaches martial arts as a way for others to learn how to protect themselves.
Through an innovative clothing project, Freema Chambers was able to change the lives of thousands of schoolchildren. After relying on friend’s hand-me-downs to dress her child, Freema knew this was a problem that many parents face. She set up the Community School Clothing Scheme in 2017, which provides families with school uniforms and other household items.
During the lockdown, Kelly Charles left notes and heart-shaped signs in the county to raise awareness on mental health. This was done as part of the RED January campaign, where people are encouraged to do something active every day to improve their mental health. Kelly’s notes included contacts people could call for help, as well as messages of hope.
Nottingham MP Nadia Whittome is inspirational in many ways. In 2020 she announced a donation of £2000 to local taxi drivers, which came directly from her salary. The politician is also Nottingham’s first BAME MP, and she works hard to amplify the voices of Nottingham’s young people and students.
As the great granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, it’s no surprise that Helen Pankhurst is a women’s right activist and writer. Helen has worked for a range of organisations, including Womankind Worldwide and CARE International. She received a CBE for her work in 2019 due to her services for gender equality.
Aside from being a famous actress, Emma Watson has also done a lot of charity work. In July 2014, she was appointed as a Women Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations. Emma also launched the solidarity movement for gender equality called HeForShe.
Jessica Ennis-Hill is a famous British track and field athlete who has competed in two Olympics. In 2009 she won the gold medal at the 2009 World Championships and has won many more titles and medals since. In recent years she has inspired the younger generations to get fit and active and remains an inspiration today.
Helen Sharman OBE
Chemist Helen Sharman was the first British Cosmonaut and the first woman to visit the Mir space station in 1991. As an astronaut, Helen was also the first Western European woman in space and spent 7 days and 21 hours in space during her career.
Dr Nisreen Alwan
The University of Southampton’s Associate Professor in Public Health, Dr Nisreen Alwan, has always strived towards equality and fights for positive change in the world. During the pandemic, she ordinated and led several collective outputs from public health academics across the UK. In 2020, Nisreen was also named on the BBC’s 100 Women list.
For the last 18 months, Shannon has been the Female Inclusion Officer at Saints Foundation and was Captain of Southampton’s Women’s football club. Her work will help to create a legacy for the Women’s Euro 2022 tournament. Shannon works across all of the Saints Foundation project’s, which help females and creates gender equity.
Swansea University’s Science for Schools Scheme Outreach Tutor, Alicia Petersen, joined the program as a tutor due to her Zoology passion. She teaches children from difficult backgrounds all about science, and she herself has an undergraduate and masters degree in Biosciences.
The Founder of the Chinese Autism Support Group, Hazel Lim, created the group to remove the stigma surrounding autism. In 2020 Hazel received the title of Womenspire Champion 2020 at the annual Womenspire Awards.