#internationalwomensday inspiring change

Today I get to celebrate women at 3 International Women’s Day events with work.

I’m just back from the first, and I’m still processing it – it was hugely inspiring. Belfast is known for its construction of the Titanic, and in recent years has opened the Titanic Centre, which tells the story of the ship and the city and its people. The Centre decided to host its first ever, hopefully annual, event for International Women’s Day and No More Traffik was delighted to be invited.

The event was aimed at secondary school-aged girls, with schools from all over the country represented. The theme for the day was, aptly, ‘Inspiring Change’, and the programme’s speakers did just that. There was SO much good stuff, so I’ve picked just a few highlights to share with you…

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Maria Doran, a 19 year-old Belfast girl who is an ambassador for Young Entreprise NI and Young apprentice finalist, talked about getting her hands dirty. She quoted Thomas Edison who said “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Maria’s reponse?

Give me those overalls!

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Moya Johnston talked about her beginning as the shy little girl at the back of the class who never raised her hand, and the journey she has taken which has led her to becoming the MD for Survitec, a global brand of survival technology. She encouraged the audience to commit to learning something new every day, to work hard and believe in what we do, and to

Chase your dreams – because they really are achievable.

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Naomi Long MP also spoke about her careers in engineering and politics, both male-oriented fields and how her experience of these has been very positive. Naomi is a personal hero of mine and what really stood out in her story, from the time she took over the DIY tasks at home to the time she ran for Mayor of Belfast, was that she never believed she couldn’t do ‘it’. She reminded the audience that “you never know what you’re capable of until you have to do it”, and of the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who tell us that yes, we can. The words she left us with are still ringing in my ears:

The most important step that anyone can take towards change is to believe that they can.

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Tiwonge Kumwenda told the amazing story of how she was born in a small village in Malawi, into a situation many of the girls in the country find themselves – no economic resources, little access to education, very limited choices – and decided to do something about it. She is now a top lawyer in the country (and she is only 27!) as well as a Trocaire ambassador. She wore a necklace made of white beads, which she said symbolises a woman who is strong and who has flourished, in Malawi. She left us with words that I don’t want to forget:

I stand here today to tell you that there is always hope. That we can rise up and fight injustice in the world. That we can rise up and challenge the voice within us that tells us we cannot.

No More Traffik has 3 events on tonight (I haven’t yet mastered the power of omnipresence, so am only able to go to two!) DIABLO, a play on human trafficking, is being shown at the Shankill Women’s Centre. A WARDROBE SWAP is happening at Common Grounds coffee shop in Belfast to launch the beginning of the #makefashiontraffikfree campaign in NI, and Eve Ensler’s VAGINA MONOLOGUES are being read at the Pavillion on the Ormeau Road – in support of No More Traffik. What a great day. Also, if you missed this morning’s post, check out 4 women who blog that I am celebrating today, too!

Before you go, tell me something: who are the women (that you know, or simply know of), who inspire you? Why?

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