Good morning sisters! International Women’s Day 2018 has arrived…..let the party begin.
This event has been celebrated annually since March 8th 1913 and to say there’s been a lot of change for women since that time doesn’t adequately describe the real progress that has been made. So, I’ll be bigger and bolder than that and say that the changes for women since then have been metamorphic. I do love that word: metamorphic. It’s one that I think does pay tribute to the massive changes that have taken place for women since International Women’s Day was first officially acknowledged all those years ago.
It’s a unique and very special day; the one day out of 365 days in the year, where women around the world should be and are collectively going to be, shouting from the rooftops about their achievements and experiences and about the progress we’ve made as women in this modern and challenging world.
This year’s International Women’s Day 2018 theme, #PressforProgress got me thinking about the bravery, determination and courage shown by Emmeline Pankhurst and all those other women who fought so heroically, 100 years ago, to bring about the monumental changes to voting rights for women. The movement they started, means we exist as women today in our country with voices, opinions and voting choices equal to those of men.
Today is about celebrating our strength and courage both as individuals and as a group of women collectively with the emphasis on unity and equality. But, today whilst we acknowledge what great progress has been made, International Women’s Day reminds us that there’s still a long road to travel before we can look back and state unequivocally that gender disparity is a thing of the past. We all know there’s still much work to be done: equal pay for equal jobs equals parity. Pay differences based on gender does not.
I’m very proud to have been asked to be the speaker today at Endeavour Partnership‘s celebration for International Women’s Day at Crathorne Hall. I’m speaking on behalf of Breast Cancer Care who’ve been chosen to be the recipients of monies raised from the raffle that will take place at today’s event. I’m excited because as a volunteer speaker for Breast Cancer Care, I’ll be able to tell my audience about a very special woman: the late Betty Westgate MBE. I can’t think of a more appropriate day than International Women’s Day to be able to speak publicly about the achievements of this wonderful woman who is credited with playing a major role in changing attitudes towards breast cancer treatment in the UK.
Betty was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1968. She personally experienced the woeful lack of support for women undergoing breast cancer treatment and the way in which she was treated during her experience, prompted her to initiate change. Betty is definitely on my dream dinner party list!
On Christmas Eve in 1973, five years after her breast cancer diagnosis, Betty founded the Mastectomy Association from her living room in Croyden, South London. As a direct result of Betty’s pioneering work, the Mastectomy Association turned into Breast Cancer Care as we know it today. They are the only UK wide charity to provide practical and emotional support to women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
In 1968, when Betty was diagnosed with breast cancer, there were very few female breast cancer surgeons in the world. As was the norm back then, Betty’s mastectomy was performed by a male surgeon. Today, I want to say thank you to those women who have trained as breast cancer surgeons and who, in 2018, are working alongside male breast cancer surgeons within our hospitals, providing a more balanced landscape and choice of surgeon for women undergoing such emotionally traumatic surgery.
And, for all our chaps out there today, please don’t feel left out. Celebrate with us and for us. We’ve come a long way but united, we’ll go further.
Betty Westgate MBE 1919-2000 (photograph courtesy of Breast Cancer Care)