With International Women’s Day in full swing, what better time to start taking actionable steps towards gender equality?
Off the back of it, we spoke to eight feminist campaigners about how we can continue to tackle gender inequality this year and beyond.
1. Take Steps To End Violence Against Women
“Donate to or fundraise for organisations working to end violence against women,” says Polly Neate, chief executive of charity Women’s Aid.
“Most organisations in the women’s sector are chronically underfunded – but their work is more vital than ever. Get involved in their campaigns and educate yourself on the statistics that show how commonplace violence against women and harassment are, and the roles that sexism and misogyny play in it.
“Lots of people are shocked to learn that an average of two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales, or reel in horror at the findings of the Femicide Census - but we have to face up to these statistics and what they mean, especially in a ‘post-truth’ era.
“Do not be afraid to be candid about violence against women. We need people to be shocked, then angry, to make change happen.”
2. Get Political
“If you want to build a more equal country, you need to push equality for women into the political space,” says Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party.
“That means joining a political party that puts women’s equality at the top of its agenda every day.
“We know from Saturday’s march that hundreds of thousands of people are now ready to take the next step. So come and be an activist, a campaigner, a canvasser - or a candidate - for the Women’s Equality Party.”
3. Sign Petitions
“My step would be to support and publicise the ICChange, the campaign to enact the Istanbul Convention,” says writer, actor and activist Isabel Adomakoh Young.
“The Istanbul Convention is the most comprehensive legal framework on ending violence against women and girls. The UK government signed the IC back in 2012, taking a nice big publicity opportunity, and has since failed to actually ratify it.
“If the Istanbul Convention had been put into action back in 2012 - when the coalition government was making all of those claims about putting an end to violence against women in the UK - the awful austerity cuts we’ve seen to funding for domestic violence services, particularly specialist ones like BAME and LGBT services, wouldn’t have been legal.
“Cities like Sunderland wouldn’t be allowed to be a major UK city with zero refuges for women, and the government would be obliged by law to prevent violence, protect women experiencing violence, and prosecute perpetrators.”
She concludes: “Social activism is hugely important but we need to be looking to concrete national policy too, and supporting the IC is a broad, simple way to do that no matter how young you are, or how inexpert.”
4. Call Out Discrimination
“The movement always has and always will be made up of small acts of resistance alongside the big acts,” says Samantha Rennie, executive director at Rosa, a charitable fund set up to support initiatives that benefit women.
“There are things that each of us can do on a daily basis: something like calling discrimination out when you see it is so important.
“People must be held accountable for their thoughts and their actions, so when you see acts of sexism, racism, xenophobia, ableism, Islamophobia or anything else, call it out!”
5. Wage War On The Gender Pay Gap
“Employers have a key role to play to tackle the gender pay gap in their own organisations and soon larger employers will be required to do so,” says Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society.
“Pay transparency, access to part-time and flexible working including at senior levels is key. Enabling more women to progress into senior roles is fundamental to ensure that they are promoting the best talent.
“The Fawcett Society has led campaigns for the Equal Pay Act, the Sex Discrimination Act, and more recently has campaigned for new gender pay gap reporting regulations to be implemented.”
6. Get Sexual Consent On The Curriculum
“I’ve put together something we’re calling the Feminist Action Network (FAN) which is curating campaigns and actions anyone can take to support equality,” says MP Stella Creasy.
“I’m producing regular updates for campaigners, so anyone can join the mailing list by emailing me to ask to be a FAN member and they’ll get the updates.
“One of the points made is to ask your MP to vote for New Clause 1 of the Children and Social Work Bill to make sure consent is on the national curriculum for all schoolchildren in England. This is our last opportunity to get this into legislation.”
7. Challenge Advertising And The Media
“To counteract routine sexist and objectifying depictions of women in media and advertising, make complaints where appropriate,” says Caitlin Roper, campaigns manager at Collective Shout.
“Contact retailers and tell them you won’t be shopping there while they treat women in this way. Equally, make complaints to the advertising authority.
“Vote with your wallet - refuse to financially support companies that sexually objectify women.”
8. Help Women On A Global Scale
“Join Amnesty International to fight for women’s rights, sexual and reproductive rights, and to end violence against women and girls,” says Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK.
“The women’s marches all around the world on Saturday were an incredibly important moment in the fight for women’s rights and show again what women can do when we organise and mobilise.
“This is more than a moment, this is a movement - and we are proud to be part of that movement.”