Life, it’s a maelstrom but you’ll be ok – celebrating the women who have overcome the storm in their minds

So, it was International Women’s Day on Thursday. In the year of #MeToo and Time’s Up, the key push for the year was #PressforProgress. This was centred around motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

Around the world, there were protests about inequality and celebrations of womanhood. Women took to the streets around the world, from Spain to India. And in London, the day commenced with Westminster being illuminated by evocative slogans.

This week I’m going to celebrate women who overcame their demons and achieved greatness. And others, who use their influence to help those who are normally left behind.

 Frida Kahlo

Source: Collectors Weekly

First up, this woman was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, but throughout her life battled pain, struggle and loss. She was Frida Kahlo. She suffered from polio as a child and was involved in a horrific trolley accident, both of which physically deformed her and meant she could never have children. Her marriage was plagued by affairs, including one infidelity which involved her husband sleeping with her sister. She battled alcoholism, identity issues, depression and anxiety. However, despite this, she was an icon; she had a powerful sense of individuality and non-conformity, she went against societal expectations, from not shaving her body hair and wearing eccentric colours and accessories, to drinking tequila from the bottle (a girl after my own heart). She had a no-nonsense attitude and humour and smoked like a builder. Interestingly, it was during her time in hospital in 1925 that her father brought her paints and an easel to pass the time; this is when her ambitions shifted from becoming a doctor to an artist. From then on, she channelled her pain into her art, thus her conclusion, ‘My painting carries with it the message of pain.’

Femininista Jones

Source: Feminista Jones

Next up, someone more contemporary. Michelle Taylor, aka Feminista Jones from Philadelphia. Not only is she an award-winning writer/blogger and public speaker, but also a community and global activist and social worker. She campaigns about Black American culture, critical race theory, police brutality, poverty, intersectionality and women’s sexual and mental health. For her amazing work in 2013, she was selected as a United Nations Foundation Fellow. And in 2014 she won the Black Weblog Award for Outstanding Online Activism and was listed as one of the Top 100 Black Social Influencers by The Root.

Pavan Amara

Source: Marie Clare

My third courageous woman is Pavan Amara. She was raped as a teenager and for years couldn’t be touched or even look in the mirror. But she now is using her experience to help other victims of sexual assault. In association with the NHS, she has set up the My Body Back project. Its sexual health and maternity clinics for survivors aims to help them understand their issues around their sexuality, body image and healthcare. It also provides STI testing, cervical screening. There’s a Café V – this is a space where the women can go to talk openly with each other. They’ve created The Clit List, this is a list of erotic media curated by women who have experienced sexual violence, it’s for people wanting to explore their sexuality in a non-misogynistic way. In just a couple of years, this amazing initiative has expanded out from London into Scotland.

And finally, this woman has the potential to do some amazing things. Thursday was also the day that the SU election results were announced, and for the second year running Sama Deen has been elected as Women’s Rep. She plans to introduce the first Women’s Network, a Women’s Council and Magazine, as well as the body positivity campaign, IRIS. Hopefully, alongside the Welfare team, they can make real change at QM.

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