Celebrating women’s achievements

Celebrating women’s achievements

Celebrations are taking place around the world today (March 8) to mark International Women’s Day.

The theme of this year’s event is #BalanceforBetter and, as always, it puts the spotlight firmly on women, recognising their social, economic, cultural and political achievements and highlighting the ongoing need for gender parity.

It’s more than a century since 15,000 influential and inspirational women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote. The demonstration led to the launch of the first National Women’s Day, which was declared by the Socialist Party of America in 1909.

A year later Clara Zetkin, an ardent campaigner for women’s rights, suggested at the 1911 International Conference of Working Women that the day become an international event. There was unanimous agreement and International Women’s Day was founded; it has been celebrated around the world every year since.

Southwark is home to countless incredible women who have made their mark. One woman who is perhaps not as well known is the creator of the London A-Z guides, Phyllis Pearsall. Known affectionately as ‘Mrs A-Z’, she walked for 18 hours a day across 23,000 streets of London compiling the information needed to create the street index for the first guide, which was published in 1936. A Southwark Council blue plaque has been in situ at her birthplace in Dulwich since 2002 to commemorate her contribution to London life.

Since 2010, Southwark has also hosted the Women of the World (WOW) Festival, which takes place at the Southbank Centre, and other locations around the world. Founded by another inspiring woman, Jude Kelly, who stepped down from her role as Southbank Centre’s artistic director last year to focus on the event, this year’s festival comprises two programmes: What Now? and What Next?

To date, more than 65 WOW Festivals have been held across the globe, which have welcomed some of the most inspiring women from the world of arts, music, politics and literature, including Angela Davies, Malala Yousafzai, Annie Lennox, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Salma Hayek.

This year’s WOW Festival takes place on Friday 8 March and Saturday 9 March.

For more information and tickets, visit southbankcentre.co.uk