by Allyson Williams MBE
Last summer, I saw my daughter wearing a T-shirt with the slogan ‘THE FUTURE IS FEMALE’. She recalled the thumbs up, the cheers and the dirty looks she got when wearing this T-shirt. I cheered, but I wasn’t surprised that this bold statement would be controversial.
It reminded me of similar statements we discussed during my degree studies in Gender Society and Culture (Women’s Studies), while working as a midwife manager in the 1990s. At that time, it was important to understand and learn the most effective and efficient way of improving my role as an advocate for the women and their families in my care. As part of my studies, I finally learned that feminists were not anti-men, but were fighting for women’s freedom: the freedom to become less dependent on men, have their own independent voice, and have the ability to make real choices.
Women have continued to nurture everyone they come into contact with, except themselves. Women are transforming the world, despite the challenges of the power and dominance of men, entrenched in all aspects of their lives at home and in the workplace. However, women have not been passive victims of this oppression, and since the growth of industrialisation (1760-1840) and the Emancipation of Slavery (1863), women have made immeasurable gains in society. The Suffragettes won us the vote (1918), and we gained access to education and jobs. The Equal Opportunities Act (2010) – the culmination of many other laws against discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability, age, religion and sexual orientation – was started by women protesting for equal pay and recognition of their skills.
Women demonstrate unsurpassable qualities, such as strength, resilience, tenacity, flexibility and multitasking, and will continue to excel despite the barriers and obstacles placed before them. Under this pandemic, women have been forced to think of life from a different perspective. The economy has virtually shut down, putting untold pressure on the value of family life. Women have had to suddenly become teachers and childminders – with little notice or training – resulting in their health and well-being being compromised. Research indicates there has been a 42% increase in levels of anxiety in the UK, and with the lack of quality sleep being experienced across all adult groups, women are the ones finding themselves less able to manage the challenges of the pandemic.
However the pandemic has thrown up a myriad of solutions that women have embraced. Exercise, in particular, has been highlighted as good for the brain and for maintaining health and well-being.
It is vital to keep the faith and realise its healing powers. Faith helps us to remember our blessings and appreciate and be grateful for the joys of life. With all that is beyond our control at the moment, being thankful for life and keeping home and family life intact is very good therapy, because it enhances the quality of our family relationships. We have been made to feel shut in during lockdown, and the sadness of the pandemic has highlighted all that is wrong with the world, but equally, with every bad thing that has happened, there have been twice as many victories and acts of kindness, more quality family life and loving support within communities. As women, we must continue to be a beacon of light and ambassadors of hope for others.
As we consider whether the future is female, I am reminded of Disraeli’s quote: ‘In a progressive country, change is constant and inevitable’. So while the world continues to be focused on fighting against change, change has continued to happen. Women continue to move onwards and upwards – undeterred by the ongoing gender inequalities. Women have become successful Heads of State in Germany, Gabon, Scotland, Trinidad and Tobago, Serbia, New Zealand, Barbados, Namibia, Denmark, Bangladesh and fourteen other countries around the world so far. We also have prolific role models, who continue to support and empower women around them, for example Michelle Obama, Greta Thunberg, Mary Seacole, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Amanda Gorman, to name but a few. So let us pay attention… Women are continuing to realise their full potential.
Allyson is a retired Midwife Manager, who enjoyed a 40-year career in the NHS. She remains actively involved with various health and cultural charities, including the BAME Health Collaborative and Notting Hill Carnival Limited. For more information about Allyson and her work, she can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org