This year the theme of International Women’s Day, March 8th, is #ChooseToChallenge.
This is a call to action, a rallying cry, to stand up to inequality and help to create a more inclusive and ‘gender equal world’.
As a new mum, with a 13-month-old son, this resonates strongly with me. I want to be a driving force for change and an inspiration to others and I believe this begins at home. I want my son to grow up not just believing in the strength, capabilities and endless possibilities of men, but also of women.
This year the key message of the day is “a challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.” We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Chair of ukactive and Paralympic medalist in wheelchair racing has said that “women are facing unprecedented pressure on their health during lockdown, as women not only have to deal often with an increased workload, including home school responsibilities, during the third lockdown but also have fewer opportunities to exercise”. She believes this is due to gyms and leisure facilities that run group sessions (as well as running and walking groups) closing, which is the way many women prefer to exercise (link)
However, according to the Active Pregnancy Foundation, as a result of lockdown, a greater number of pregnant women felt it was more important to be active during pregnancy for their physical and mental health (link). And there are some fantastic resources now available with guidance to help guide and reassure women around physical activity, both pre and post natal. Better Births Lincolnshire says “the more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth”. They suggest you continue your normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as you feel comfortable.
We all make daily choices that impact on others and on ourselves. While pregnant I found myself prioritising physical activity every day as a way of looking after my physical and mental health, and that of my baby. However, even working in a field where promoting the multitude of benefits of being active is literally my job, I still felt some level of uncertainty around being “too active” and sought advice on the safest ways for me to remain active.
International Women’s Day encourages us to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. For myself, and for other Mum’s, this may be by role modelling healthy behaviours. Although my son may not consciously know it yet, I find myself modelling behaviours that I want him to think of as normal. One key choice for me is to be an active parent, even in these difficult times I try to go for walks and, now that he is a little older, bike rides with him. I also try to make sure he has some time outside every day and that he sees me being just as active and capable as his Dad.
Active Lincolnshire is committed to equity in sport and physical activity, working with a wide range of partners to make sport and physical activity available to all regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age or socio economic status. From wheelchair basketball to walking netball, new age kurling to parkrun Active Lincolnshire believes it is possible for everyone to be active everyday, but that in order to remove some barriers to activity we need to work together.
This is just one reason support networks are so important, as we are still distanced from extended family and friends who may have been able to free up our time in the past, we rely more on teamwork and help from inside our bubble. Encouraging men to #ChooseToChallenge norms that underpin the belief that women have to take on a “greater role at home, centred around caring for the rest of the family”(link) which can impact on their health and wellbeing is crucial with research showing that 61 per cent of women are finding it difficult to stay positive during lockdown, in contrast to 47 per cent of men (link).
With a son who is very young and has consistently long afternoon naps I have been lucky enough to find time to do almost daily kitchen workouts however, on the days when he wakes up, or we have other priorities when he is asleep, my partner and I take it in turns to get some exercise in. It is a wonderful bonding time for my son, one on one with both Dad and Mum.
It is so important to me that he grows up seeing both parents being active and working together, and further down the line, to include him more in our activities. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality, to take a step away from the belief that men are by their nature more active or interested in sport than women. To inspire our children to lead healthy lives by leading by example and to expect that regardless of gender they have access to and engagement in physical activity.
Individuals and organisations are invited to send in their #ChooseToChallenge images in the lead up to International Women’s Day 2021 using this link. The #ChooseToChallenge pose is your hand held high to show your commitment to choose to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world. Why not share your support on Twitter or Facebook and tag Active Lincolnshire using the hashtag #LetsMoveLincolnshire, we would love to see you getting behind this great campaign!
To find out more about International Women’s Day 2021 click here.