We should all celebrate women. We should all care about making the world a better place. Since the age of 12, Joana has campaigned tirelessly to tackle gender inequality. Now 19, she is the founder of two social enterprises, ‘She.’, which aims to bridge the socio-economic gap for young girls pursuing traditionally male careers, and ‘UniPear,’ a mentoring scheme set-up to support disadvantaged and minority students accessing higher education.
International Women’s Day is my favourite day of the year, even more than my birthday or Christmas. It is a day of celebration and constructive conversations. Last year, I spent it drinking bubble tea with inspirational feminists and going to kilo clothes sales in the shining Spring sun. This year, it’ll be spent in my University room writing essays and dreaming of a world free from COVID-19. No matter how the day is spent, though, this day will always be special.
There are so many reasons as to why International Women’s Day is important to me, but it mostly comes down to all the incredible women I’ve had the privilege of knowing and learning from throughout my experience. I guess, at this point, I should probably tell you a little more about me…
My name is Joana Baptista, I’m a 2020 Diana Award Recipient, and I’m an award-winning social entrepreneur, student, and activist. I currently run two social enterprises. The first, She., was founded with a group of friends and rewrites classic fairytales with a modern twist to challenge existing stereotypes and promote diversity and inclusion. Since then, She. has gone on to reach over 17 countries, receive endorsements from the likes of Peter Tatchell and Miriam Margolyes OBE, and feature on BBC News. My second social enterprise, UniPear, provides one-on-one mentoring for disadvantaged and minority students who are thinking of applying to Oxford University. One year on, we’ve reached over 400 mentors and mentees, formed nine partnerships with other organisations, and have expanded our team threefold!
Alongside my social enterprises, I’m also incredibly fortunate to be able to give talks to businesses – such as Facebook, at conferences – such as at Disney, and to schools, at TEDx, and an array of other events. Both my social enterprises and my talks are run alongside studying full time at the University of Oxford, where I’m in my second year reading Economics and Management.
Throughout all my experiences, I have had the opportunity to work with and work for women across the UK and around the world. Listening to different experiences has reminded me of my privilege and the importance of encouraging intersectionality within feminism, so we may all be more inclusive feminists. Read more about intersectional feminism, what it means and why it matters, here.
“It is critical for us all to raise awareness of International Women’s Day both in and of itself as a day and for the wider message it represents. We should all be feminists. We should all celebrate women. We should all care about making the world a better place.”
In a world where we are still 108 years out of reaching gender equality, where FGM is still a reality for women in many countries, and there is yet to be a Female President of the United States, there is a long way to go. We want to reach a point where International Women’s Day no longer needs to draw attention to the work that still needs to be done to address gender parity, and instead can focus on all the progress that has been made to achieve equality. And, importantly, equality not just for women but equality for all genders, and for all intersections of which women are a part of. None of us are free until all of us are free!
So, with that, I’ll leave you with three tips that readers of this blog can implement this International Women’s day to educate, inspire, and take action from:
1. Read/listen to feminist literature (recommendation: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez).
2. Unashamedly call yourselves intersectional feminists, and encourage everyone you know to do the same.
3. Find a woman in your life you can directly support and encourage.