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How I celebrated International Women's Day Maryam Farhanah

On Thursday 8 March, I was one of four women invited by Monmouth County Council to speak at Chepstow School in South Wales. The theme was #pressforprogress

“I was also pleasantly surprised that a student even wanted a photo with me, because she wanted to be a chemical engineer and was excited to have met one!”

How the day went

My presentation was called ’Choose Engineering’ to hopefully inspire the girls (year seven to year 12) to think about engineering as a career choice. I started by sharing my journey and offered some tips for overcoming challenges and adversity. I also took along a photo of some of my female colleagues to break the image stereotype of women in engineering.

After our presentations, the girls were split into groups for a workshop. They were encouraged to think about the six issues faced by women in the 21st century and rank them in terms of priorities in keeping with the theme. The six issues we covered were:

• Equal pay

• Eradication of sexual harassment

• Access to contraception/family planning

• More women leading governments

• Women having more opportunities in traditionally male dominated areas

• More exposure of women sports to a global audience

I facilitated a lovely and lively bunch of students. Initially they didn’t fully grasp some of the subjects but once we discussed them in more detail, I was really encouraged to see them debate and rationalise the issues.

To start with, I was a little unsure when I found out that the school had decided to organise a girl’s only event. After enquiring, I was told that the school also celebrate International Men’s Day for the boys on 19 November. I also learnt from speaking with the girls that they seemed to prefer not to have boys for this event fearing the boys would make fun of their views and self-conscious to speak up with boys around regarding gender issues. I reiterated that this was a safe, non-judgemental space for them to air their views. Overwhelmingly the view was that the event was more relaxed and welcoming.

So, we still have some way to go but hopefully these girls have learnt a few things. It was a fantastic opportunity and I am so thankful for the experience. After the event, some of the girls even came to have a chat to find out more about engineering. #winning

I was also pleasantly surprised that a student even wanted a photo with me, because she wanted to be a chemical engineer and was excited to have met one! #rockstarmoment

My final thought for anyone reading this is, be yourself. Challenges/adversity is part of the path to progress, and be kind to one another!

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