Last week I was delighted to take part in a special event organised by Dover District Council to mark International Women’s Day 2020. The event drew together a range of leading women from sport, politics, the Church, and more besides.
Preparing for the event made me think about who the famous women were when I was a young woman in the 1980s. I posed this question at the event. People mentioned Ulrika Johnson (the TV personality) and Princess Diana, showing the longevity of pretty television celebrities and royalty. Of course, the two most important women of that time were our Queen and the first woman Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher.
I had the privilege to meet Mrs Thatcher to talk to in person, three times. On one of those occasions, long after she had been Prime Minister, she took my cold hands and warmed them in hers – an insight into her personal warmth that is too often overlooked in the history books recording the bitter political battles of those days. Mrs Thatcher changed the country into a dynamic, successful and prosperous economy. It was an exciting time to grow up in. That grocer’s girl from Grantham who became Prime Minister instilled in me the confidence that if I worked hard, I could do well and provide for myself and my family (to be).
Now here I am in turn working hard to support another period of economic and social change to be a springboard for ambition, success and prosperity for our area, and our country. Every young person in our area should be able to seize the opportunity of these new times, to work hard and do well.
This year’s campaign theme for International Women’s Day is “Each for Equal”, the idea being that each of us is responsible for making society and the world change for the better. Each of us having a part to play in making our community a better place has always been my own approach throughout my life. It is also a key community viewpoint for our home area.
Whether it is helping people who are homeless, providing help to older people, lifts to hospital, mental health discussion support groups, soup kitchens, advice services, parenting and child support – ours is a community where individually and collectively people work to make a difference. Each of us doing our bit to make our local area a better place.
That theme “each for equal” speaks to a political vision that I share. Dignity and choice of the individual. That everyone should have an equal opportunity to live the life that they choose. That means not being defined by gender, or, come to that, by race, age or background. But the overriding message of this year’s International Women’s Day? Together, we make the world a better place. Let’s keep doing it.