Inspirational Scottish women on International Women's Day

By Nasim Asl
BBC Scotland


Today marks International Women's Day, an annual celebration of women's achievement socially, economically, politically and culturally.

The first International Women's Day was honoured in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark on 19 March 1911.

One hundred and seven years on, the day is marked in hundreds of countries.

Here are the stories of eight young and successful women from across Scotland.

Ella Gibbons - Netball player

image copyrightUWS Sirens
image captionScotland Thistles netball player Ella is also studying for an MA in Human Rights and Equality

"I play netball for UWS Sirens and the Scotland Thistles, Scotland's national team. I'm going to Australia in April to play in the Commonwealth Games.

"The women that inspire me are Kelly Holmes and Maya Angelou.

"As an athlete, growing up and as a young girl, Kelly Holmes inspired me through her sport and through her story, in terms of she overcame in order to win Olympic Gold medals. That was incredibly inspiring. Also Maya Angelou, for her activism and voice within those spheres.

"I think young women in Scotland now face a number of challenges. There's definitely issues for young girls growing up in terms of the impact of what they see online, and the negative impact of that on their self esteem and body image.

"As we've seen in the media, the sexual harassment that women face on a day-to-day basis is something that we're finally starting to talk about, but actually I don't think we've really got to know how bad the problem really is."

Kim Long - Community worker and councillor

image copyrightKatie Noble Photography
image captionKim helped set up the social enterprise Vox Liminis, which uses music and art to help prisoner rehabilitation efforts

"I'm a community worker and carer. I'm the first ever Green Party councillor in Glasgow's east end. I've worked with young women and in prisons across Scotland.

"I'm inspired by so many women. I love the writing of the black feminist poet Audre Lorde, the activism of Malala Yousafazi, because she shows you're never too young to change the world. I was at the unveiling of the statue of Mary Barbour. She's someone whose story gives me a lot of strength.

"International Women's Day matters to me because it's a day to highlight the strengths and achievement of women despite the wallpaper of oppression that we live with. I love that it's a day of solidarity. That's really important to me because I believe sisterhood is powerful.

"Women deal with so many acts of aggression and misogyny every day. It's normal to walk home with your keys between your fingers in case you get attacked. You get sexually assaulted every time you go clubbing. You have men shouting sexual things to you when you're at a bus stop - that happened to me when I was 12 years old, in my school uniform."

Kayleigh Haggo - Paralympic Youth Games swimmer and world record holder

image copyrightKayleigh Haggo
image captionKayleigh has broken 13 world records and won gold medals in the European Paralympic Youth Games

"I'm a para-swimmer and I also do RaceRunning.

"The women that inspire me are those who work hard to turn their dreams into reality, and they don't let anything stand in their way to do that.

"International Women's Day gives women the opportunity to keep breaking down barriers, and it shows that women can be just as successful, if not more, than men.

"For women today, employment and the issue regarding inequality in pay are big barriers."

Kimberly Benson - Professional wrestler

image copyrightICW/David Wilson
image captionKimberly wrestles under the name Viper but wrestled for WWE's Mae Young Classics tournament as Piper Niven

"The women that inspire me are my mother and my sisters because they're all very different. They've all helped me become the person I am and showed me that I can choose whatever life I want to lead, and I can do whatever I want to do and I can be whoever it is I want to be.

"I think International Women's Day should be a celebration of being a woman and all the things that we've accomplished. But at the same time, it's a reminder of all the things that still need to be done.

"Women are always being told who to be and what to be like and what to look like. We're so brainwashed and so preoccupied with thinking and worrying about what other people think of us.

"I don't think women think enough about what they think about themselves or if they like the person that they're becoming. I think there could, and should, be more done to think that way, rather than always looking at the media or the internet to try and decide what they should be like."

Eilidh Earle-Mitchell - Project designer

image copyrightEilidh Earle-Mitchell
image captionEilidh makes original and unique casings for prosthetic limbs

"I am a project designer. I work for a non-profit organisation called Make Aberdeen. I run the digital fabrication lab in Aberdeen.

"I also started a project creating prosthetic casings during my fourth year at university. The project was about making prosthetics more physically pleasing, without changing the prosthetic itself.

"Two main women inspire me. One is Corrine Hutton, who's from Glasgow, and she's a quadruple amputee. The second would is Bethany Hamilton, who is a surfer.

"As a young lady starting off in my career, I think there is still a lot of discrimination. A lot of people would rather have a man's opinion over mine. It's just the little things that people discriminate about, but it really does lower your self esteem.

"I think International Women's Day is about creating positivity for young women and helping them stay motivated and empowered."

Lisa Evans - Footballer

image copyrightLisa Evans
image captionLisa uses social media to try and encourage more girls to get involved in sport

"I play football professionally for Arsenal women, and I also represent Scotland's international team.

"I really look up to Serena Williams. I think she's one of the strongest female athletes out there right now, and obviously she's still playing. She's obviously an incredible athlete and a very strong, powerful woman.

"A main challenge faced by young women participating in sport in Scotland is probably the amount of opportunity that's actually out there for women in sport. I know by representing Scotland's international team that not all of our players are professional.

"For there to be professional football opportunities for those players they have to actually move abroad - move to Sweden, move to England, move to the USA. The opportunities are limited in Scotland, and its a shame.

"International Women's Day matters to me because it allows us to remember all the people that have fought for women's rights and for women to have better working environments.

"These women were courageous and inspiring and its important that we remember the figures that have been historically beneficial for women in all different environments, and also to remember the fact that in other countries women's rights are maybe not as well developed as they are in this country. It's about pushing for rights for all women in the world."

Nadine Aisha Jassat - Poet

image copyrightJames Barlow Photography
image captionFeminist poet Nadine is releasing her first full-length poetry collection in March 2019

"I'm a poet, writer and creative practitioner working in the movement to end gender based violence.

"The women I work with really inspire me every day. In particular, women like Mridul Wadhwa who works at Rape Crisis Scotland and has influenced my thinking in how storytelling can play a role in social justice.

"As a writer as well I've been really inspired by the work of Audre Lorde. Her ideas have shaped how I feel personally and politically, and also my approach to my work as well.

"I think it's interesting that in 2018 its the centenary of some women being given the right to vote, but there are still so many barriers that young women face professionally and personally every day.

"There are high levels of gender-based violence, the gender stereotypes we see in the media and wider society can seek to silence young women or box them in. It's my hope that in my work as an educator and storyteller that I can provide spaces for young women to share their voices and break out of some of those silences.

"I think International Women's Day provides an opportunity for us to take stock and reflect on the fact that gender equality has not been achieved yet, but at the same time it allows us to acknowledge the strength and diversity and power of the women who are here."

Alice Thompson - Social Bite

"I'm co-founder and director at the social enterprise Social Bite.

"Candice Neistat inspires me. She's Casey Neistat's wife and is a female entrepreneur based in New York. She runs a jewellery company and is quite present on YouTube.

"I think she's inspiring because she doesn't wear make up, she walks around in her pyjamas when she wants to. She continued with her business when her best friend left the company, and in general she kicks ass at being a girl boss.

"International Women's Day means to me that we're slowly starting to recognise as equals in society, but I think the day we'll truly be recognised as equals in society is the day that we don't need an International Women's Day."

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