Celebrating International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day Smira Khalid, Riverside’s Housing Officer, talks about being the first female in her family to graduate from university and thanks her mum for inspiring her.

Smira Khalid, Housing Officer for North Region.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year and is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights.

Its roots date back to 1909 when the Socialist Party of America organised a Women’s Day in New York. The following year, the International Socialist Woman’s Conference suggested a Women’s Day should be held annually.

And after women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.

Today, International Women’s Day is a public holiday in some countries and completely ignored in others. Depending on where you live, it’s a day of protest or a day that celebrates womanhood.

For me, International Women’s Day is about celebrating the empowerment we as Asian women have today. I am a Pakistani Muslim, born and bred in Britain, and, for me, it’s a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

I feel BAME (black and Asian minority ethnic) women have helped to pave the way for the progress we see in Britain today. My parents emigrated from Pakistan in the 1970s and have helped build and shape Britain – I am very grateful for the opportunity to have been raised here. If I was in Pakistan I would have not had the opportunities I have today.

I was the first female in my family to graduate. This was largely down to my mother who inspires me every day. She didn’t have the opportunities I did, but made sure I was empowered through education and by giving me the choice to be who I am today, a confident lady.

I am very passionate about this particular day as it’s celebrating women. Women have fought for this, and we are here today leading the world. For me, one of the most inspiring women was Mother Teresa for her work and dedication to something she believed in so firmly. She famously said ‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples’. These words have always stuck with me.

Women are leaders everywhere you look – from the CEO, to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women and I believe we will continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes.