Roughly 100 years ago the world was changed irrevocably for women, thanks to the battles fought and won by Emmeline Pankhurst. Friday 14th December saw the second female statue to grace the streets of Manchester (in 117 years!) unveiled, and, Emmeline rightfully honoured in the city of her birth.
The Emmeline statue campaign was championed by local councillor Andrew Simcock, who during his speech noted that his “was the only male voice which would be heard” today. The crowds gathered to witness talks from Helen Pankhurst, Hazel Reeves (the sculptor), and the town mayor amongst others. People were gathered in their thousands, chanting “Deeds Not Words”, to honour the work of Emmeline on this momentous occasion.
It was a day which marked change, which demonstrated progress and which gave voice to the people of this incredibly proud city.
Attending this event, watching the hordes of women (and men) marching under the guise of change and progress, hearing my own voice amongst a crowd of such passionate and driven people willing to stand up and fight for what they believe in got me thinking. It may sound like a cliche but, being in the throng, feeling part of a cause, really feeling as though I was involved in something of great significance, made me come very close to tears.
Even now, with so much progress made, there is still so much work to do.
Seeing change like this happen makes the future seem brighter and more full of hope, and makes it clear that despite the required change feeling like an entirely uphill struggle at times, there are people who are willing to take on the challenge and make their voice heard.
So really, despite seeming like I’m just saying that I had a fantastic time witnessing the unveiling of a seriously important statue, I’m actually asking you to find what you believe in and fight for that change to be made.
One of the key factors which creates inequality is opportunity, with men being far more likely in a lot of circles to be given the chance to speak and then progress. This is changing for the better, and more and more women are now taking their rightful place into positions which allow them to affect positive social and economic change.
However, another factor which has a hugely negative impact on woman is their ideas and voices being taken seriously. Even if they reach spaces where their voice can be heard, that does not necessarily mean that it is being listened to.
To hear and to listen are so vastly different, and it is this difference which makes up some of the divide. As unfortunate as it may be to have to voice this, Emmeline was the exception as opposed to the rule. Whilst the situation has improved greatly since she was championing what she felt was right, there are still so many for whom their ideas are simply not being taken seriously.
Suppressing ideas which you know are fundamentally right and good because you are worried that the world might not be ready for them is simply no longer good enough. You need to find your clarity, discover your purpose, take a stand and be brave.
We do not need to alter ourselves to fit into an environment, the environment needs to be re-moulded to enable us to fit into it.
So for anyone who has ever called you beautiful, remind them that you are also intelligent and strong. That your ideas are relevant and interesting, and that your voice deserves to be heard.
In summary, be more Emmeline.