International Women's Day 2020

BAME heroines who exemplify #EachforEqual

2 March 2020

Drawing from the strength of shared experiences, women around the world have been uniting in common struggles such as sexual and domestic violence, pay inequality, reproductive autonomy and climate change. While great leaps forward have been made and women-led movements have been gaining unprecedented attention and support , minority ethnic women are often left behind as these struggles are compounded with the intersection of their race/ethnicity and gender.

Examples of this can be seen when looking at the gender pay gap and domestic violence respectively: A study by the Fawcett Society found that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women experience the largest overall gender pay gap at 26% and Black African women experience the largest full-time gender pay gap at 19.6%, while women and children from BAME backgrounds have not been receiving adequate protections and support in parts of the UK after suffering domestic violence (see Guardian article: Female BAME domestic violence victims ‘being failed’ in Manchester).

This year for International Women’s Day, we would like to highlight and celebrate some BAME heroines who exemplify #EachforEqual in their respective achievements.

1. Doreen Delceita Lawrence, Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, OBE

Community activist and the Founder of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the murder of her son, Stephen Lawrence, who was attacked and killed in an unprovoked racist attack. Unsatisfied with the investigation into her son’s murder, Baroness Lawrence and her husband Neville were the driving force behind a public inquiry – the conclusions for which have dramatically shaped the criminal justice system.


2. Reni-Eddo Lodge

Award-winning journalist, author, and podcaster.

Her debut work of non-fiction addressing racism in Britain, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, was met with both controversy and critical acclaim, winning several awards and named in a poll as the “most Influential book written by a woman”. More recently, Lodge’s book was chosen for Emma Watson’s feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf, and she premiered her podcast, About Race with Reni-Eddo Lodge to further acclaim.


3. Patricia Janet Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, PC QC

The 6th Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Baroness Scotland is a woman of ‘firsts’: In 1991, Baroness Scotland became the first black woman to be appointed as Queen's Counsel, and then in 2008 was appointed Attorney General – the first woman to hold this position since the first Attorney General was appointed in 1315.


4. Adwoa Aboah

Activist, model, and founder of the “Gurls Talk” project.

Aboah is one of the most recognisable and successful models in recent years. Working in an industry that has frequently come under criticism for its lack of diversity and sexist practices, Aboah has been tackling these issues from within the fashion industry, discussing her own battles with depression, addiction, and belonging openly. In 2015 she founded an organisation called “Gurls Talk” in order to create safe spaces for young girls to be able to discuss mental health and feminism.


5. Gemma Chan


With issues of “white-washing” and racial typecasting in film and television, Chan has been an outspoken advocate for racial representation and visibility on the screen. She recently starred in the film “Crazy Rich Asians” which not only made history for its all-Asian cast but was also the highest grossing romantic comedy in the last 10 years.


6. Onjali Q Rauf

Children’s book author and founder of “Making Herstory”.

Rauf’s inspirational work with refugee children in Calais and Dunkirk inspired both, her award-winning children’s book, The Boy at the Back of the Class as well as her NGO, “Making Herstory”. Her organisation helps women and children escape violence, enslavement, and trafficking in the UK and around the world. Rauf was recently named on the BBC’s list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2019.


7. Naga Munchetty

Journalist and BBC Presenter.

Munchetty recently found herself the target of a complaint to the BBC that eventually became a national debate. The complaint followed from an episode of BBC Breakfast when Munchetty spoke out against remarks made by U.S. President Donald Trump, that four BAME female members of congress should "go back" to "places from which they came". In response to this Muchetty stated, “Every time I have been told, as a woman of colour, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism” – a sentiment shared by the many BAME artists and journalists who wrote to the BBC in her support following the incident.


8. Olajumoke ‘Jay’ Abdullahi and Kym Oliver

Activists and Vloggers.

Abdullahi and Oliver call themselves the “Triple Cripples”, a name that addresses the three levels of discrimination and oppression they face as black, disabled women. The dynamic duo have a YouTube channel and plan to start a podcast dedicated to giving a platform to oppressed voices.


9. Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, Baroness Warsi PC

Lawyer, politician, and member of the House of Lords.

The daughter of Pakistani immigrants, Baroness Warsi grew up in a working-class community in North England. When Baroness Warsi was appointed as Minister without Portfolio in 2010, she became the first Muslim woman to serve in British Cabinet – famously donning a traditional Asian dress, the salwar kameez, at the first meeting of the new coalition Cabinet. Throughout her career, she has challenged negative stereotypes levelled at Muslim women while combatting Islamophobia inside and outside of the government.


10. Susie Ma

Founder, Tropic Skincare.

When Ma was 15 years old, she began selling her homemade body scrub at Greenwich Market to help her mother pay the bills. Fast-forward 15 years to 2018 when Ma was named as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 for her work as the founder of her ~ £29.5m/year beauty company, Tropic Skincare.


...and lastly, with a nod to the original Suffragette movement,

11. Princess Sophia Duleep Singh

British Suffragette and member of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

Singh was the daughter of the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire in modern-day India. In the UK, she steadfastly campaigned for the right for women to vote alongside many other Indian and BAME woman at the time. According to the British Library, Singh, led a “400-srong demonstration to parliament together with Mrs Pankhurst” on the 18th of November 1910 where “150 women were physically assaulted” in clashes with the police. Until 2015 with the release of Anita Anand’s book, Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, Singh’s crucial and extraordinary role in the Suffragette movement had largely been forgotten.


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