The importance of International Women’s Day in Kingston

Each year, the world comes together to celebrate its past and present achievements in the advancement of women’s rights and fight for gender equality.  

The waves of feminism that swept the 20th century revealed a path many women did not believe was possible to them. 

 Women such as myself, have been able to venture into fields previously exclusive solely to men. 

 It amazes me how far the world has come within a relatively short space of time.  

The importance of pushing for the inclusion of women into spaces traditionally reserved for men has been particularly at the forefront of Kingston Council’s objectives over the past few years.  

The council and its various partners have announced multiple events to showcase IWD ranging from talks to get-togethers to help raise awareness over the difficulties women continuously face.   

I was spoilt for choice as I decided which ones I wanted to attend in my quest to understand what IWD means to local women in Kingston. 

Kingston Women’s Hub manager Candice Roggeveen, whose organisation provides support for violence and abuse survivors, praised the council’s willingness to allow them to help shape the council’s strategy on violence against women and girls.  

Credit: Candice Roggeveen
Credit: Voices of Hope

She said: “International Women’s Day is a great opportunity for us all to be reminded of the incredible contribution women make to our individual lives and our communities.” 

The Kingston Women’s Centre (KWC), a local charity run by women for women have helped improve women’s mental well-being through affordable counselling services.  

Frankie Kearns of KWC said: “Amazing progress can be made when women stand together and support one another. I feel proud to play a small part in such a fantastic local charity.” 

The desire and excitement to acknowledge all the hard work and commitment many have done to create change to improve the lives of women in and around the borough was noticeable.  

IWD for them was about reflecting on the positive work they were able to do throughout the year no matter how big or small efforts were.  

When looking at Kingston Council itself, arguably, they have been the face of this significant fight, as seen through their annual diversity report.  

According to their latest gender pay gap report in 2023, the median pay gap between men and women at 1.82%, a decrease from the previous year.  

Still work to do

Progress in Kingston has been made, however, change in general appears to be slow when concerned with the growth of women’s rights and there has been a lack of focus on the impact intersectional factors have on the recognition of women.

IWD predominately focuses on the positive steps made to combat sexism, forgetting the different lived experiences of women and the other systematic barriers, such as racism, different women face, even with the removal of sexist agendas.  

Sara Chandran, the founder of Fresh and Fearless, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultancy who now lives in Kingston, said she has had to deal with various issues as a business owner.  

She said: “I face a particular type of sexism that is shaped by racism that maybe a white woman or brown man would have zero exposure to.” 

With Kingston being a multi-cultural town, this makes it much more integral to create events that cater to more nuanced experiences in order to create more progress.  

The future of IWD

There is a need for IWD, as there is no dispute that actions are being taken to aid women, but I believe the day should place more emphasis on reflection rather than hosting events.  

Through reflection on the impacts of intersectional problems such as racism and religion among others, this can lead to the creation of solutions that can be implemented in the future, better representing the women of Kingston.  

Many people question the importance of IWD, a day dedicated to women’s issues when no country is even close to eradicating gender inequality, one of its main goals.  

The world has become stagnant and even in some places, women’s rights have regressed, undoing the hard work and sacrifices made by those before us.  

As of now, I am encouraged by the work Kingston is doing and have hope we can continue to develop in the push towards gender equality.  

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The podcast editor and reporter for Kingston Courier.

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