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Reflections on International Women’s Day 2021 webinar: Women Who Lead

16 March 2021

“Many women in my life they work, and they never get any recognition, it’s not fair.” – Sidata Zaja

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2021, the NHC in collaboration with other members of the European Partnership for Democracy, organized an online webinar on 04 March, attended by over 150 people. Four brave female activists spoke at the event, which was moderated by Nabila Ramdani, an award-winning journalist and broadcaster and one of the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Young Global Leaders.

Something as simple as going to buy toothpaste was the start of first speaker Ayton’s journey into the organization of the UK’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Ayton is an actress, activist and leading voice in the BLM protests in the UK, and founder of the Black Reformist Movement. In May 2020, Ayton was watching the abhorrent video of the murder of George Floyd when something in her clicked, a stream of questions arose in her mind; “How are we here? How are we watching this right now? How is this possible?” These questions plagued her on her walk to buy toothpaste; a task her mother had given her to de-stress. It was on this walk that she stumbled across a BLM demonstration in London, ended up speaking at the event, entering the organisation of the UK BLM movement, and finally setting up her own Black Reformist Movement. In her talk, Ayton brought us with her on this journey, and just like her experience, her talk was powerful and raw. Her emotions were felt through the screen and left us, the audience feeling inspired and wanting to do more!

“I am much more discriminated because I am a woman much more than because I am trans.” – Tamara Adrián.

Ramdani introduced second speaker, Adrián, a “relentless campaigner against homophobia and transphobia.” Adrián is a Venezuelan lawyer and academic, and she is first transwoman to win a seat as a member of the country’s Congress. She posed us a question: “How many people do you know that are actually in the core of changing the world?” Her own passion for changing the world is fueled partly by the loss of democracy in Venezuela, and it was right before the disintegration of democracy in Venezuela that she was able to win her historic seat in Congress. During her talk, Adrián provided us pearls of wisdom about creating change and about sourcing your passion to create and fuel that change: “Legal equality is the first step in order to achieve the equality in effects [as] simply having a law is not the same as having equal rights.”

The third speaker, Sidita Zaja, is the Executive Director of the NGO ProLGBT (a partner of the NHC), fighting for the rights of the LGBTI community in Albania. Zaja’s own journey stemmed from a will to help people and unacceptance for injustice, this was, in her own words “maybe too much of a cliché,” inspired by her mother. Seeing her mother taking care of her, working for her and doing so without being seen, was a point of inspiration to bring about change. In Albania, Zaja explained, the women’s movement is also closely linked to the LBGTI movement, they are often the LBGTI movement’s sole supporters. Zaja has been a pivotal member of the LBGTI movement and spearheaded the online pride event in Albania during lockdown. Zaja explained passionately that members of the LBGTI community suffer enough, however, in the pandemic they suffer disproportionately, “we really wanted as an organisation to show the community that we care and that we’re not going to be stopped.”

Zaja also discussed her work for the LGBTQI+ community during the pandemic in this year’s Night of the Dictatorship.

The fourth speaker Krishala Tamang, from Nepal, was introduced by the moderator by mentioning that womens rights are not treated as a priority in Nepal, but more of an afterthought. This makes the work of Tamang even more impressive, as one of the youngest elected Vice-Chairpeople of Doramba Rural Municipality in Nepal’s Ramechhap district, and a national-level martial arts expert to boot. Tamang stated that she her interest in politics and community work was piqued during her travels as a martial artist to Japan where she saw the living conditions of Nepalese menial laborers. Therefore, when she was asked whether she wanted to enter into politics, “I said yes very quickly.” She stated that she has her own views on matters such as sustainable development however, since entering politics she has felt discrimination from senior politicians and her voice tends to be ignored. Fortunately, this did not deter her, and in fact, “I became more determined to bring about change.”

Following the powerful statements from the speakers on their motivation for becoming leaders and activists, the discussion centred around questions of the role of the media, working in a rural versus an urban environment and what messages of hope the speakers could give the audience. Ayton’s answer to the latter was agreed on by all the speakers as she stated that the “first thing I would say is stop asking for someone else to make a difference. Stop asking for when someone else is going to make things better… Hard transition, but once you make that transition, magic can happen.”


Many thanks to the speakers Imarn Ayton, Tamara for their inspirational stories, Nabila Ramdani for moderating and to the European partnership for Democracy, Demo Finland, the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, People in Need, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the Association for Local Democracy Agencies for co-hosting and organizing the event!

Watch the full recording of the event below: