March is Women’s History Month; a month to celebrate the achievements of women and to inspire girls.
One of our supporters, Zara Tegan, is a secondary school teacher. She wrote this assembly for her school to mark International Women’s Day and has given us permission to share the text below, as it can be used throughout Women’s History Month. She has also shared with us her teaching resource which we attach here.
“Good morning all, and welcome to this morning’s assembly about International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated globally on 8th March and has a number of aims:
- To recognise women’s achievements Worldwide, both past and present.
- To respect what has already been achieved in the battle for women’s equality, such as voting rights and increased employment, and respect the women who achieved these globally.
- Finally, to understand that sex equality has not yet been achieved, and that more work needs to be done to ensure all women have equal opportunities around the World.
This year’s IWD theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’ and encourages women around the World to challenge oppression and misogyny. In honour of this, today’s assembly will introduce you to some amazing women who spent their lives challenging expectations of women, and female oppression.
Born into slavery in America in the 1800s.
Escaped the plantation she worked on and sought freedom in Pennsylvania.
Returned to the plantation to help free other enslaved people. She saved 70 people by escorting them on the ‘Underground Railroad’, a series of safe houses that led to Canada where slavery was illegal. She didn’t lose a single person who she tried to rescue.
She worked during the American Civil War as a nurse for wounded soldiers, and also as a political advisor for military leaders. She was the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War, and she helped free another 750 enslaved people.
Ladies of Llangollen:
Two Irish women who eloped to Wales in order to live together as partners.
Their families disapproved of their relationship- tried to marry Sarah Ponsonby to a male family friend, and tried to have Eleanor Butler sent to a convent.
Tried to elope twice before they succeeded but were caught by family.
Their decision to elope cost them money. They spent the rest of their lives together in Llangollen, a small Welsh village, surviving off of charity, however they chose this over being forced to live apart.
Endured attempts to isolate them for their relationship, but also served as hope for other lesbian women at the time.
Noor Inayat Khan:
Served as a British spy during WW2.
Joined the war effort despite being a pacifist as she wanted to prove that Indian women could be brave.
She was a talented typist and communicator however her supervisors’ believed her to be ‘too weak’ to be a spy as they believed she’d reveal information to the enemy. They also believed she was too unfit.
But her determination, resilience and skills meant she was the first woman sent to occupied France as a wireless operator and spy.
She was arrested by the Nazis in 1943 after being betrayed by another agent. She refused to say anything under interrogation and was executed in 1944.
Caroline Criado Perez:
Researcher and journalist.
Challenged the ‘data gap’ experienced by women- has proved through research that women and women’s experiences are not taken into account currently in a variety of ways e.g. development of new technology or medicine.
Has highlighted the importance of understanding the differences in female bodies, and adapting the World to suit women better (e.g. bricks are currently designed for the average male hand, so it’s difficult for women to become builders but bricks could be made smaller with no impact to architecture or housing).
Writer and poet.
Her most famous work ‘The Well of Loneliness’ was censored in Britain for 40 years due to its main character being a lesbian.
She was famous for her dress and lifestyle. She rejected stereotypical dress for women, and wore suits her entire life. She was an open lesbian and had relationships with women at a time when homosexuality was still illegal.
Buried in Highgate cemetery.
Hopefully, what you’ve seen from this assembly is that there is no one way to ‘Choose to Challenge’ but that it is important we do so, in order to create a World where women everywhere have equal freedoms and opportunities.