Over 100 Years Later… International Women’s Day - #PressforProgress!

Thursday March 8th marks the day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. Since the early 1900s this day has been highly important and brings together governments, organisations, corporations and charities.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated through performances, talks, rallies, events, conferences, competitions, marches and so many other ways. This day is even an official holiday in many countries around the world, but other countries tend to celebrate it in a similar way to Mother’s Day. Along with that this year (2018) actually marks 100 years since most women were given the right to vote in the UK, so this makes this year even more memorable!

Why do we still celebrate it?

Many of you may be thinking why should we still celebrate the day, right? Well the original aim of IWD was to achieve full gender equality for women in the world – but according to the 2017 report by the World Economic Forum, we could still be waiting another 100 years before the equality gap between men and women disappears.

How was Stanmore College involved this year?

As a College that always wants to give an excellent experience, top-class teaching and skills to all students we wanted to get involved with IWD. We did not just celebrate the day but the whole week, starting from Monday 5th March (where every student was welcome).

Each day we did something different:

Monday 5th March – Women of Stanmore

This was to introduce the overall week and female members of staff spoke about their experiences within their field.

Tuesday 6th March – Women in STEM

Female STEM staff, past students (Sahar Kashef & Priya Matharu) and a career adviser all spoke about how they got into their field and their experiences. Also, giving advice on how to pursue a career within STEM.

Wednesday 7th March – Skills Showcase

To begin with an experienced Yoga Teacher called Mala Govan gave the students/staff demonstrations of multiple stretches and poses and mentioned “For me, yoga is a lifestyle”. She ended her part of the day with getting students/staff to sit on a chair or the floor (cross legged) to explain meditation and let them all feel calm before the next activity. Mala asked everyone to firstly put two fingers onto their wrists and feel their pulse, close their eyes, inhale then exhale slowly (long deep breaths) and explained that this is “Scanning the inner body, tapping into a calm moment”.

She also gave the students a piece of advice which I am sure many of them will use “Before you go into an exam, rub your ear lobes”.

Shortly after, a female student gave demonstrations of a few stretches and explained the meaning behind each. Not only did all students get involved but we had a few staff members join in and everyone could feel that burn from the movements.

A STEM student, Maryam Alajmi, showed off her ballroom and salsa dancing skills. She set the vibe, paired everyone up, played the music, demonstrated the female and male steps and got everyone dancing!

To round off the activities of the day, we had three tables with different activities to take part in. Our student, Priscilla, was showing everyone how to make bags with beads covering the entire surface. Everyone exclaimed when they saw the one she made which was a good sign. We had a table for making a cupcake flower bouquet. Everyone was shown how to ice the cupcakes and what each appliance was, so each person was able to design their own cupcake if they wanted. Lastly, we had Angela (Laboratory Technician) showing everyone how to make sugar paste flowers (which takes a lot of patience by the looks of it).

Thursday 8th March – International Women’s Day

It was a big day for many of us here at Stanmore College and we can all agree that staff and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Student Ambassadors did a fantastic job arranging the whole week but especially this day.

We were lucky enough to have some amazing guest speakers, who shared their personal and career journeys with us ranging from The Mayor of Harrow, The Mayoress of Harrow, Janice Brown (Clinical Scientist at Mount Vernon Hospital), Charlotte Carvalho (Actuarial Associate at Price Waterhouse Cooper), Vasu Krishnaswamy (Head of Technical and Statistical Intelligence at Pearson) and Sarbdip Noonan (Principal at Stanmore College).   

Our Principal, Sarbdip Noonan, spoke about her background as an Asian female being brought up in east London, attending the local State schools, raising her three children and emphasising how her daughter was as equal as her boys. She spoke of famous female role models saying “women should overcome their fears, become emotionally strong, because inclusion, diversity and equality applies to everyone. Life will be hard at times, there will be turmoil and there will be trials, but we need to overcome these barriers and it’s this that makes us stronger, don’t give up, fight for what you believe in and obtain success. Looking at British politics, it was, as it still is, a very male dominated world, but things are beginning to change. We had a female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and now we have Theresa May – even the most patriarchal of societies, such as India and Pakistan, have had Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto, as their leaders!”

A former member of our STEM staff, Vasu Krishnaswamy, shared her career journey and a few words of wisdom in relation to when choosing a career path. Vasu explained that she just couldn’t select a specific role model as there are so many women in her life that she looks up to. Vasu had been inspired by Kino MacGregor, life coach and Ph.D. holder who founded Miami Life Centre (yoga) and told how Kino MacGregor had inspirationally conveyed how yoga had given her emotional strength. To round off her speech, Vasu mentioned “When you’re making your decision for your future careers, aim high, aim wise and keep your passion alive”.

The Mayoress, Marilyn Devine, shared the history of her career journey and stated “I wish everyone here the best of luck for the future”. The Worshipful, The Mayor, Councillor Margaret Davine was our last guest speaker. She shared a few words around her career/personal journey to where she is now, as well as outlining why International Women’s Day was so important to her and society. Many of you may not know but The Mayor of Harrow was actually a student and, later, a governor here at Stanmore College (yes we are that lucky) and she mentioned “Stanmore is very important to me”, as well as explaining that she had a very normal upbringing and how grateful she is to the people around her. The Mayor also spoke her transition into the position and said “To become Mayor was a bit of a process really” but also made clear that support and parenting are the most important aspects. She recalled progressing into her career and how it was mainly focused around females, but she personally had 3 sons ironically! She left everyone on a positive note and shared very encouraging moments and words with us all!

To thank the lovely ladies who shared their stories, they were each given a lovely bouquet of flowers presented by students. One of our students, Maria Pope, shared her amazing vocal talent with us soon after. She sang a song called ‘Hats off to women’ in Romanian having firstly translated it into English. The words were incredible and really explained how grateful we should all be for all the women who set an incredible example to not only society but the world. The Principal was so touched that she passed on her bouquet to Maria and thanked her for such a lovely rendition. The event then ended with a selection of international cuisines set out for lunch.

Thank you to everyone involved and we hope you all enjoyed the week celebrating!

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