‘Don’t get pigeonholed into one category. Just go for it’ 

At an IWD event in Exeter, women shared advice for each other
International Women's Day event in Exeter.
International Women’s Day event in Exeter. Photo: Thanh Hung

“Woman is life,” said Nrvan Zowal, who is 51. “Woman is the rose of the world.”

Zowal, who was attending a festival organised by the Exeter Phoenix to celebrate International Women’s Day was speaking about the importance of women in the world. The IWD, she added, is a very good opportunity “for women to meet and empower each other and give some energy to each other as we really need it in this hard world”.

Nrvan Zowal. Photo: Thanh Hung

Angela Garwood, 55, a data manager, said of the International Women’s Day: “I think it’s an opportunity to celebrate women and all the things that we do that people may not realise that we’re capable of doing. I think a lot of times women are underestimated; our experience, our education can be seen, especially by men, as less than, so I think it gives an opportunity for us to highlight, be brave, and stand up for yourself.” 

PC Brooks speaking about women.
Speaking about female sergeants PC Brooks 43. Photo: Thanh Hung

In countries spanning every continent, women are breaking barriers, shattering stereotypes, and making their mark in fields traditionally dominated by men. Whether it’s in politics, STEM, the arts, or entrepreneurship, women are proving time and again that they are forces to be reckoned with. A police constable who prefers to be referred to as PC Brooks, 43, had this to say: “Being women and police, we get to see all aspects of it. In my perspective, I would say there is definite equality within the force. We both have female sergeants at the moment, and in fact, all the sergeants I’ve had today have been females. It’s a real good divide between male and female roles in the police force, and I think everyone just mucks in, and we all get treated the same. At the end of the day, we’re officers, and gender kind of gets pushed to one side. Don’t get pigeonholed into one category. Just go for it.”  

“It’s nice to be a part of it, and I think being two female officers here today kind of representing the female side from the force. I’d say if there’s anything you want to do, do it. Don’t let your height, size, gender, anything get in the way. I think I talk about that from myself being only five feet (5ft) tall and a female. Just push that aside, and if you want to do it, you’ll make it happen no matter what. That’s my advice.” Police constable Daly, 25, said. 

PC Daly. Photo: Thanh Hung

Yet, despite the strides made towards gender equality, women continue to face systemic barriers and discrimination. International Women’s Day serves as a call to action to address these challenges head-on and create a more just society for all. Pixie Maz, 55 an entertainer and actress when asked how she feels about IWD had this to say: “I think it is wonderful, and it is good for us all to be together in one community. I feel women should be raising each other up more; I don’t think that women are. I’ve found quite a lot of bullying in the workplace where I’ve worked with women not supporting each other, so I’m hoping that days like these remind them to be kind to each other. I always try to defend myself as a woman.” 

This year’s theme, Inspire Inclusion, encourages individuals and organisations to challenge stereotypes, confront bias, and forge a more inclusive world. It’s a rallying cry for gender parity and an acknowledgment that progress cannot be achieved without dismantling the barriers that hold women back. 

Malak Ayyash, a young volunteer for the women’s day event, said: “I feel really proud to be a woman. I hope to be a doctor. I want to be a strong, independent woman, and I would say to other women outside: follow your dreams, do not give up. Be proud of yourselves.”

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