RISE CEO Jo Gough blogs for IWD 2021

Posted on March, 2021

#IWD2021: A celebration or a protest?

International Women’s Day was born from protest and marks many significant female-led protests worldwide since the 1900s. It marks labour strikes, violent protests, legal and political challenges. This year’s theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’ (#choosetochallenge), so this year I am choosing to challenge you to protest rather than celebrate.

For many years, I have spent my 8th March celebrating the great women in my life and in our history. I often talk about my amazing Mom, my literary sheroes like Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, as well as women survivors of abuse and violence. I routinely thank and centre my women friends, hopeful for some visibility and appreciation for women, elbowing my way into the space to level the playing field and striving for a moment to reveal the worth of half the human population. Not this year.

This year I will be getting angry and getting loud. I am furious that after more than a hundred years of protest we still need to protest. I am furious that women are still not heard and still not occupying seats of power and I am angry that women are still not believed and suffer the consequences of male violence as well as the systemic re-victimisation of our criminal justice systems. Enough is enough – it is time to rise up!

I am fed up with having to smile politely and say, ‘Happy International Women’s Day’; it’s not a birthday, it’s a day that marks that fact that women are still not fairly treated; they are killed and abused; they are judged unfairly; as girls they are cut and married too young; they are stigmatised for loving other women and they are considered not worthy to hold important jobs or to hold the family bank account.

Whilst I am writing this my phone is buzzing with positive messages and empowering gifs and suggestions for books by women authors to read. I am sorry colleagues, friends and family, whilst migrant women are excluded from the safety and support of the new Domestic Abuse Bill, I have very little to be happy about. While the porn industry continues to teach our girls and boys that violence and abuse are normal I won’t be celebrating.

I will be protesting and I #choosetochallenge you to join me. Pick any cause you like affecting women’s liberation and rights. Pick something affecting your neighbourhood, your family or friends or the whole world. I can guarantee that these will be connected because women’s inequality is global and we can only tackle it together by thinking globally. For me, feminism is the tool we utilise to liberate women so I am coining a new label for today ‘International Feminist Protest Day’. Join me in protest and we will celebrate the big wins when they come.


Some things you can do today:

  1. Have a look at the history: IWD: History of International Women's Day and talk to your friends about why we need to know this.
  2. Sign this petition calling for local authorities to fund women’s domestic abuse services https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/577718
  3. Set up a campaign group to fight for women’s liberation or join an existing one. You may wish to support this group: Petition · Rise up! Bring Our Women's Refuge Home · Change.org
  4. Pledge a regular gift to RISE so that we can continue to be a campaigning voice for survivors of male violence and abuse. Pledge your monthly gift here >>