Two of my favourite days of the year fall in the same week this year – International Women’s Day and World Book day. For many of my friends World Book Day creates a sense of utter panic as you have to persuade, and provide for, your child to go school as a suitable character – from a book,and not a movie!
My youngest son is going to be dressed as a seven year old Henry VIII this year – certainly not fiction but as he seems to have a love for any book about history, I feel that should be celebrated
Each for equal
International Women’s Day is also an opportunity to reflect on what should be celebrated, what we need to learn and what more we need to do. It got me thinking… this year’s theme is #EachforEqual – an equal world is an enabled world; and in planning for World Book Day I thought to myself it is through the stories we share that we can continue to help forge a gender equal world. So, for this year’s IWD blog I am drawing upon some stories and characters that I believe can inspire us all to continue to push for a world that is #EachforEqual.
Buried in a book
From a very young age I have often buried myself in a book. Sometimes as a way to escape the pressures of life, or perhaps to fuel my hopes and dreams for a better world. Books can be powerful tools and inspire us with compelling characters and role models. They fuel our imagination and often give us the strength to perhaps challenge the status quo or voice our opinion.
Our own Elizabeth Bennet
From my own experience of books, I have to start with Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (the title alone also says it all). Elizabeth categorically refuses to comply with what ‘is expected’ of her as a woman. She is brave and outspoken and challenges the status quo. In life many of us have to draw upon the ‘Elizabeth Bennet’ inside ourselves and show it to the world. It can be wearing but it can also bring you real pride – and doesn’t it feel good when you have stood up to judgement?
Scout for the answers
I also love that books bring to life the right values for life. Scout in Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ shows me when it is right to do the right thing. She has an amazing sense for standing for what is right – especially for one so young – always speaking for those who are made to feel less worthy. There will be many people still in the world today who don’t have the confidence to speak out when they are treated unfairly. I see it happening in the playground and at work. But we can call it out when we see it.I love it when my daughter befriends the ‘new person’ at school or spots the ‘shy’ person at a party. The world is a daunting place and we need others to support us – and help us find our voice. I thank those friends and colleagues who have often helped me.
Help from Hermione
Books can also help us cut through the prejudice and everyday noise that we are up against. We need people that that hold it all together and can help us to find the right path. For me, Hermione Granger is stand out. She wasn’t a pure born wizard but it is her fierce loyalty and heart that inspire me. She genuinely cares for those around her. To aspire to real equality we have to show courage. We have to be selfless. We have to care. Hermione shows all three qualities to us and more…
Inspiration is alive
There are lots of characters from so many other stories who have inspired me and who certainly have made my world a better place – Nancy Drew, Danny the Champion of the World, Emma to name a few. And what is so brilliant about books is that these inspirational characters are alive on the page and alive in our heart. And sometimes, just sometimes we show the world how they are inspiring us.
A more recent discovery though is The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. Charlie has captured brilliantly the flood of feelings we all have when we are a little vulnerable. All the characters demonstrate love, friendship, courage and resilience. It is magic and I would love to see a world where more people feel brave enough to say ‘help’ more often. I also have to thank a friend for giving me the book – how thoughtful is that?
Follow Hermione’s lead
So for International Women’s Day this year I encourage us all to take inspiration from our personal favourite stories and characters – fictional or non-fictional. We can create a world that is equal for all if we keep trying to follow the characters and role models that inspire us. And don’t forget to tell the stories you are proud to tell, where we are making progress… Which brings me back to a seven year old and Henry VIII. The Tudor King is not anyone’s first choice for an IWD role model. But he does remind us how far we’ve come and how much history can teach us and our children. And don’t forget he was the father of Elizabeth I – truly an extraordinary character from history who tore down expectations throughout her reign as Queen…