A guest blog post from Dr. Sharleene Bibbings on what we did for International Women’s Day 2016.

UN Women is dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women in all walks of life. On 8 March 2016, the UN Women UK National Committee London Leadership team organised an event to celebrate International Womens Day (IWD). The event was hosted by the National Bah Centre in Knightsbridge. The theme of the night was Women Empowering Communities: The power of womens leadership at the grassroots, and the event featured three outstanding women who shared their leadership journeys and their work with local communities.

Dr Sharleene Bibbings opened the session. The IWD theme this year was pledge for parity. Sharleene talked about the research by Ernst and Young that shows that profitability, return on investment and innovation all increase when women are counted amongst the leadership. At least 50% of the worlds women are in paid employment, an increase from 40% in the 1990s, but there is still a pay gap. Globally, women earn 10-30% less than men for the same work. According to the World Economic forum it is estimated it will take until 2133, to achieve gender parity in the workplace globally.

There have, however, been many great achievements to celebrate, especially womens involvement in empowering the grassroots. Sharleene introduced the speakers who shared their leadership experience at the local level.

Eleanor Barrett and Rosie Freeman are Co-directors of The Brick Box, an arts organisation and social enterprise. Through The Brick Box, they create spaces which serve as social spaces for the local community to express themselves freely. Their previous projects include The Electric Fireside, Thamesmead, and A13 Green, all of which see the local residents take ownership of the space to co-create artwork for the community. Eleanor and Rosie said: “It was a very empowering event to be part of”.

Stephanie Busari, founder and curator of TEDxBrixton, was inspired to start up a TEDx conference in her local community following the August 2011 riots. Within three years, TEDxBrixton has had 1600 attendees, 50 speakers, 80 volunteers, and 2 million video views. Stephanie ensures that the conferences are inclusive and truly representative of Brixton, embracing the diversity of the community. With her storytelling experience, the speakers are able to share their personal stories in memorable ways that strike a chord with the audience. Stephanie remarked: “Speaking at the event was very fulfilling as it was a lovely warm atmosphere. A wonderful way to celebrate international womens day”.

The event was really uplifting – a participant remarked that this was the best International Womens Day event she has been to. Eleanor and Stephanie shared that it was at their most vulnerable point in life when they were inspired to make a difference in society. Sharleene said womens leadership for her is about growing your ambition and changing the narrative. All agreed that showing up, collaborating, and providing support to others were crucial.

Indeed, womens leadership was strongly felt that evening – women representing various organisations from all walks of life got involved and found ways to collaborate through conversations with one another, just by attending this International Women’s Day celebration.

Wed like to extend our thanks to our amazing speakers, the dedicated volunteers who led the event and all those who attended to show their support!


Empowering Women’s Leadership