Wycombe Abbey marked International Women's Day by holding a Speakers' Forum with four female panellists from diverse backgrounds each of whom provided insight into the experiences of women in 2016.
Major Jo Maitland inspired the students to believe that even in a male dominated career such as her own (army and engineering) there is no reason why gender should make any difference to your aspirations. Amy Howerska, a successful stand-up comedian, was also able to broach the issue of working in a principally male sphere and how society's expectations of male and female comedians often remain different. Her amusing and thoughtful talk helped to illustrate how being a woman can sometimes be a disadvantage but also how it can be made into an advantage. She ended with the positive message that laughter was something which united everyone.
Joana Martinho, currently a project officer at the Prince's Trust, touched on a number of different issues facing women across the world ranging from women in refugee camps in Turkey to women who have experienced sexual violence as a weapon of war. She highlighted the shocking statistic that women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria combined. However, she also provided hope that small projects, such as an Oxfam initiative that provided mobile phones to women in Cambodia, could have a huge impact, and made the students really consider how their own actions in fighting everyday sexism could have wider influence in the long term.
Finally, a more local angle with national and international parallels was discussed by Louise from Wycombe Women's Aid, a domestic abuse charity that works in Buckinghamshire. Her talk brought to light the reality and prevalence of domestic abuse, both physical and emotional, whilst also discussing what is currently being done to try and prevent it. The message that it was young people and their attitudes towards what constitutes a healthy relationship that would have the biggest impact in the future struck home with all the students.
The event closed with a number of excellent questions from the audience including who each speaker felt was their greatest female inspiration. By the end of the evening it was clear that all of the panel members were also inspirations for the Wycombe students to both be advocates for promoting women's rights across the world and to never allow their sex to hold them back. Wycombe Abbey would like to extend a huge thank you to all of the speakers for taking the time to come to Wycombe, to Alicia for masterfully chairing the debate, and to all the students who attended.
Head of Global Opportunities