Ways You Can #ChooseToChallenge and Celebrate Our Champions

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of women's achievements and progress and a day to continue the fight for equality. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. A different theme each year highlights and inspires action to bring about gender equality. In 2021, the celebrations will embrace the different way our world currently works, centring around two themes: "Women Lead" as championed by UN Women Australia and New Zealand, and "Choose to Challenge" as outlined by the International Women's Day website; 

IWD has been informally celebrated in Australia since the early 1920s, gaining momentum during the 2nd World War when activists such as Jessie Street campaigned for women's rights as workers. Women at the time were often paid only 54% of men's wages. 

In New Zealand, IWD is UN Women's special day and it's worth noting that New Zealand was the first self-governing nation to allow women to vote.

To set the tone we’ve outlined ways you can #ChooseToChallenge and the champions we think epitomise this years IWD theme.

#ChooseToChallenge Champions #1:  Jacinda Ardern and Jessie Street: 

"You can carve your own path, be your own kind of leader. We do need to create a new generation of leadership." - #JacindaArdern Prime Minister of New Zealand. 


Jacinda Ardern and Jessie Street.

"I believe that in a democratic and free society, men and women should receive equal pay and equal opportunity." #JessieStreet (1889-1970) Australia's First Female Delegate to the United Nations.

Level up your knowledge

To shake your orbit up – get your hands on any material you can:

  • Read articles online.
  • Chat with people and look around you.
  • Turn your energy and intention towards noticing women in context; look for gender balance in the boardroom, government, media, work, and the rich list and sports field.
  • Get informed about how balance is bright for business and how it buoys communities and economies.

#ChooseToChallenge Champions #2: Nanaia Mahuta and Amelia Telford:

"Parliament toughens you up, but it comes back to who you are. You know what's real, what's important; you try and keep true to yourself all the way through." - #NanaiaMahuta Indigenous Maori Foreign Minister, New Zealand. 

Nanaia Mahuta and Amelia Telford.

"Right now, we need to show our politicians that if they don't lead, then we will. Because leadership is strongest when it comes from our community." - #AmeliaTelford Founder of the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network (SEED), Australia. 

Challenge gender bias and inequality

Everyone is affected by gender inequality, including boys and men. Gender roles impact us throughout our lives. Stereotypes about women and men, girls and boys, begin in childhood and follow us into adulthood. 

Yet, gender equality is a fundamental human right. However, that right is violated by gender discrimination, which is any unequal treatment, including privilege and priority, based on gender. Pay attention when you see gender bias and inequality and make a stand against it.

#ChooseToChallenge Champions #3: Virginia Haussegger and Kate Sheppard: 

"All that separates whether of race, class, creed or sex is inhuman and must be overcome." - #KateSheppard (1847-1934). Suffragist and Founding President of the National Council of Women in New Zealand.

Virginia Haussegger and Kate Sheppard.

"Gender equality progress in Australia is in trouble. Despite Australia's leadership in developing some of the best anti-discrimination legislative frameworks in the world, the current climate of bias and backlash is proving immune to regulatory control. Australian women and girls are failing to flourish as well as they should, particularly given our decade long world number one ranking in female education." - #VirginiaHaussegger Australian Journalist and Gender Equality Advocate.

Campaign against violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) can affect anyone. It's a global problem of significant magnitude, severely impacting the health and wellbeing of those affected and adding high social and economic costs for communities and nations. 

Preventing and ending gender-based violence is possible. Education, advocating for change and supporting initiatives and organisations that help women are just a few of the things you can do to help end violence.

#ChooseToChallenge Champions #4: Grace Tame and Judy Bailey: 

"Every voice matters. Just as the impacts of evil are borne by all of us, so too are solutions borne of all of us." - #GraceTame, Australian of the Year 2021. 

Grace Tame and Judy Bailey.

"Brain developmental science tells us how damaging exposure to domestic violence is for the brains of young children. And that being surrounded by violence is just as bad as actually being hit." - #JudyBailey ONZM, Patron of Women's Refuge New Zealand. 

Forge for women's advancement

Today it's more vital than ever to be bold for change and help forge a better working world for women. In Australia, just over one-third of business owners are women (32%). However, women are still behind men in business ownership and financial independence, and there is still a way to go before gender parity is achieved. 

All of us can help support women-owned and operated companies. Start by frequenting women-owned boutiques, buy from women-owned companies, and invest your money with women financial advisors. Do your research and support companies that support women! 

#ChooseToChallenge Champions #5: Lisa King and Muhammad Yunus: 

"We are set up as a social business. We have a clear delineation: when people buy lunch, that funds a lunch for the kids; we don't rely on or ask for donations." - #LisaKing, Founder of Eat My Lunch, New Zealand. 

Lisa King and Muhammad Yunus.

"We lend to poor women. I realised that credit given to a woman brings about change faster than when given to a man. We saw that money was bringing much more benefit to the family, so we changed our policy and gave a high priority to women. As a result, now 96% of our four million borrowers in Grameen Bank are women." - #MuhammadYunus, Social Entrepreneur, Nobel Peace Prize laureate 2006. Founder of Grameen Bank, pioneering the concepts of microcredit and micro-finance. 

Shift old paradigms

Thinking differently about gender norms and assumptions is key to challenging old paradigms and shifting outdated societal beliefs. Despite global efforts to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women, challenges still prevail, most of which stem from old and entrenched paradigms and outmoded ways of thinking. There is an ongoing need to raise awareness and shift the societal paradigms that still perceive women as inferior to men. 

We can all actively strive to be the change towards a better society by examining our own biases, becoming active bystanders, creating a fair and equal home life, continuously educating ourselves and those around us, and supporting women in business, politics and other leadership roles.

#ChooseToChallenge Champions #6: Dame Whina Cooper and Deborah Mailman: 

"The seed I would like to plant in your heart is a vision where all our people can live together in harmony and share the wisdom from each culture." - #DameWhinaCooper 1895-1994. Respected Kuia (Māori Elder), who worked for many years for her people's rights, and particularly to improve the lot of Māori women in New Zealand. 

Dame Whina Cooper and Deborah Mailman.

"Some people think that there aren't many Aboriginal actors around, and if there are, they're not that good. It's stupid. There's such an incredible pool of talent out there, and they're still coming out of drama schools. People just need to take a leap of faith." - #DeborahMailman Australian Actor. 

Smash stereotypes

Let's smash stereotypes! None of us likes to be stereotyped, whether through gender, age, religion or race. Stereotyping is not only hurtful; it's also wrong. Stereotypes are entrenched beliefs perpetuated by both men and women and often present in our minds since childhood. 

When you find yourself filling in the gaps about a person, stop for a moment. Ask yourself, "Is this true, or am I assuming it based on experiences with other people who look like them?" 

We must accept that biases exist, own them and retrain our brains to overcome them. Once stereotypes are challenged repeatedly, it makes it harder to stereotype in the future. It's time to break with convention and rethink gender norms.

#ChooseToChallenge Champions #7:,Cathy Freeman and Holly Robinson:

"Disappointment and adversity can be catalysts for greatness. There's something particularly exciting about being the hunter, as opposed to the hunted. And that can make for powerful energy." - #CathyFreeman First Australian Indigenous person to become a Commonwealth Games gold medallist at age 16 in 1990. 

Cathy Freeman and Holly Robinson.

"I do athletics because I love it and because I want to be the best version of myself each and every day." - #HollyRobinson, New Zealand Para-athlete and Commonwealth Games silver medallist at age 24 in 2018.

Honour a woman who has inspired you

We need to do more to shine a light on the ambitious, successful women who dream big and achieve their personal and professional goals while staying true to themselves.

Today, girls and young women need successful, relatable role models who encourage them to imagine everything they could achieve. People who inspire them to believe in their dreams and that they can become a reality. Strong female role models help young women make educated choices about what suits them and then pursue their goals with self-confidence and enthusiasm.

#ChooseToChallenge Champions #8: Greta Thunberg and Dr Jane Goodall:

"I have learned you are never too small to make a difference. Right here, right now, is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming whether you like it or not." – Greta Thunberg, Environmental Activist. Youngest TIME Person of the Year 2019, and two consecutive nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize (2019 and 2020) for her fight against climate change.

Greta Thunberg and Dr Jane Goodall.

"There is still so much in the world worth fighting for. So much that's beautiful, so many wonderful people working to reverse the harm and alleviate the suffering. And so many young people dedicated to making this a better world. It's not too late to turn things around if we all do our part." – Dr Jane Goodall, Conservationist, Primatologist and Anthropologist.

International Women's day is about raising awareness and celebrating women's achievements around the world today. This year's theme emphasises how vital it is to work toward a more equal world for everyone.

We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality in the little things we do each day. It's vital to make yourself aware of the issues around gender equality, which is a fundamental human right. Get educated in how you can raise awareness and participate in positive change for the benefit of all women today, both young and old.

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