The issue of gender inequality is ever-present and needs year-round pushback from all of us, Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre, has said.
In an article for the Evening Standard, Kelly writes that while it is encouraging to see a greater focus on women’s struggle and empowerment on International Women’s Day, there are 365 days in a year where the problems are ever-present, nagging, debilitating.
She said: “On this day we get heard. We get seen. Men help. Media editors source speakers and columnists, television and radio favour themes and ideas about empowerment and ingrained prejudice, parliaments raise relevant issues, schools adjust their assemblies and businesses announce new targets.
“Achieving gender equality requires heavy lifting right across the world and, as we know, carrying heavy objects around is always wearying and sometimes downright risky to our health. It’s difficult to think of a time when the pursuit of social progress was so complicated.”
This week, the Southbank Centre is running the Women of the World Festival, which, not only celebrates women’s accomplishments, creativity, talent and passions across the globe, it also puts the spotlight on the problems they face today.
“These festivals celebrate not just achievements and ambitions but discuss and plan an imagined future which is learning from real diversity at all levels,” Kelly explains.
“The optimism engendered makes it possible to talk candidly about some of the cruellest examples of injustice and the most profoundly sensitive stories of trauma.
“They’re not intended to be simply a cosy place for re-affirmation and self-congratulation — yes, there’s mutual support but there’s also a call for action and bravery.
“The questions of just three generations ago look so simple, naive perhaps, compared to the global and infinitely nuanced and intersectional challenges facing us now. Social progress isn’t simple or easily won and everyone is required to help.”