Tag Archives: International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day: Overcoming Tragedy and Bereavment: Katie’s story

9 Mar

Katie Jayne Spencer from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, had to deal with the death of her little sister nine years ago, and last year had to drop out of university because of a mystery illness. At only 20 years old she has had to find strength in herself to overcome more than any young adult should have.

When she was 11 she was in a car accident. Her, her sister Stacey and her aunt were on their way to Skegness when they were hit by a lorry as their aunt tried to overtake it. Her sister died at the scene and Katie was air lifted to hospital. Here she was treated for her physical injuries but overcoming the death of Stacey was a longer and more painful struggle.

Because her aunt was driving the car she was blamed by Katie’s side of the family for what happened. This went to court and she was found guilty of Death by Dangerous Driving. She got a suspended sentence and a two year driving ban, a sentence Katie feels is, “just not enough.”

This justice did not help the conflict between the two sides of the family and on one occasion Katie saw her in town. “I had a panic attack” and said her aunt accused her of shouting “murderer”. This is but one of the confrontations between the divided family.

                                               Stacey, Katie’s little sister

To help overcome the ordeal Katie saw a psychiatrist but did not feel she could talk to him, or her family. She said: “I felt I had to stay strong, I didn’t want to upset them.” This was until the pain of keeping it all inside “exploded” and she spoke to her mum about everything. She eventually realised that, “dwelling on it won’t change what happened; you just have to get on with things.”

Katie has now come to terms with the ordeal and has campaigned to help raise awareness for the air ambulance that saved her life. She speaks more of what happened and thinks it has made her, “a stronger person.”

But, last year at Christmas Katie became ill. She had lost her appetite and being sick was a daily problem. She was taken to the doctors on many occasions but even from blood tests they could only say that she was slightly anaemic.

Weeks later she collapsed and was taken to hospital where she had to have a blood transfusion. She stayed there for months before she was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. During this time she had daily, and sometimes intrusive, tests to try and diagnose her illness. Her weight dropped dramatically and the emotional strain was constant; “I thought that was it, I thought my life was over.”

However, once she got her diagnosis and treatment she built up her strength and is out enjoying life again. She is back at university studying Law with Psychology, has a great social life and, despite her fear of cars, has just got her driver’s licence. She says she is, “trying to live life to the fullest, because Stacey never got that chance.”

I interviewed Katie to find out how she felt during these experiences and what advice she would like to offer to anybody else. She was emotional but stayed strong which shows just how far along she has come in the past 9 years.

By Sarah Walters

100 Years of International Women’s Day. Have you heard of it?

8 Mar

Did You Know That 8 March is International Women’s Day?

8 Mar

8 March – is International Women’s Day – a global women’s day celebrating political, economic and social achievements of women in the past, present and future. The day is celebrated in UN countries, but in some places like Russia, China, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia – 8th March is a national holiday.

Clara Zetkin drawing by I.Brodski

Clara Zetkin

The International Women’s Day was suggested by Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) during the second International Conference of Working Women in 1910 held in Copenhagen. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration of women – a Women’s Day. Zetkin’s suggestion was greeted by hundreds of women involved and approved the idea; therefore International Women’s Day was established.

International Women’s Day is a holiday of ordinary women, who have become creators of history. Historically, it is based on centuries-old battle of women for their rights and equal contribution to social life alongside with men.

In the UK it seems that a lot of people have never heard about this day and therefore don’t even know that traditionally in some countries women are treated with flowers and compliments from their partners, husbands, friends, fathers etc. It is the best day to say compliments and cherish women as they have achieved so much since they got their right to vote and be equal to men in most aspects of social life.

Coming from Latvia – (the post Soviet country), where the majority of people are still following the Soviet traditions and celebrate holidays like 8th of March, I was surprised none of my British friends had ever heard about the Women’s Day. I have always took it for granted that somebody has to give me some flowers and say how beautiful I looked that day…Even in primary school, mothers were making their sons give a flower to every girl in the class and it didn’t matter whether one fancied a girl or not, it was a gesture of respect. Of course some girls were treated with chocolate as well, because they usually helped them with homework. It is considered that a man’s behaviour is quite rude if he doesn’t greet a woman he knows – a mother, a wife, a girlfriend, a colleague or a friend. He’s expected to say some compliments at least, if not – he’s not brought-up well. Usually, it is not the case with men from Eastern Europe, they are willing to present some flowers quite often, especially when it’s Women’s Day – it is a great reason to make women smile.

Although, some people in the UK might be aware that such day exists, but there is no tradition to give flowers to women in their families or at work, which is quite disappointing, because women deserve to get flowers every day.

By Tanya Andrejeva

Sheffield’s celebration for International Women’s Day: Words of Inspiration

8 Mar

Today, the 8 March, is International Women’s Day and yesterday I went to a conference in Sheffield to see some inspirational women talk about their life, struggles and triumphs. Guest speakers were Penny Mallory, Lady Catherine Meyer and Arlene Phillips. The event was hosted by Forward Ladies and helped raise money for the Katie Piper Foundation. Katie was also there to promote her charity. You can read a news article on the conference here but I thought the women there deserved more so I have picked out the best parts of their speeches and put a brief outline of what they said.

Katie Piper      

In 2008 Katie had sulphuric acid thrown on her face after being raped by her ex-boyfriend then refusing to see him. Both the men involved were found guilty and sent to jail for their crimes but Katie has had to rebuild her appearance and her life. Before the attack she was a budding model and T.V. presenter but since she has become a source of inspiration and example of overcoming life changing events even though “having a burn leaves you feeling desperate and isolated.”

Now she can be seen at events like the conference held in Sheffield yesterday and her beautiful face is plastered all over the website for The Katie Piper Foundation which she set up to show “you can have a happy life with burns.”

  • “Disfigurement left me insecure and made me realise I had judged people in my mind about how they see me. But, after the Channel 4 documentary some journalists asked me how it felt to know I would never get married or have children. I wanted to change that.”

The Katie Piper Foundation

Katie said the foundation was set up to: “Give people the confidence to venture out and give them the choice to wear cosmetics or not.” They help burns victims to overcome the ordeal they have been through by providing funding for rehabilitation and treatment, support the need for the constant clinical care required, give workshops to help victims with makeup, medical tattooing and image related issues, create a support network and normalise society’s view of disfigurement.

The conference was held to celebrate International Women’s Day and also raise money for The Katie Piper Foundation. In Sheffield alone over £1000 was raised which will go to all of the above but also help with the goal of opening an advanced burns and rehabilitation clinic in the U.K. To visit the website for more information about the foundation, events or to donate click here.

Penny Mallory is proud to be called the “Female Jeremy Clarkson” and being the first woman to race in the World Rally Championships it’s well deserved. Yesterday she spoke to a room of business-women (and a few men) about the trials she has had through life and the triumphs she has achieved. She encouraged them to “take control of your life” and outlined her nine steps to success which included passion, planning, preparation and a positive spin. In her speech she explained how she started training to run a marathon at a size 18, completed the feat and went on to climb Europe’s highest mountain, Mount. Elbrus.

These are just a few accomplishments in her life which all spanned from when she was a young rebel living alone, drinking and taking drugs. She said: “One day I had a moment in my life when I said enough,” showing the self motivation and perseverance which has made her so successful in her endeavours. While holding the audience’s attention with her stories she interjected with words of confidence, telling them to focus on the positives in life because “if you focus on the negative things you will likely bring that on you. You have the choice.”

  • “You have extraordinary power within yourself to make things happen, power that you haven’t even tapped into yet.”


Lady Catherine Meyer

In 1994 Lady Catherine’s children went to see their father in Germany but he did not let them return back to the U.K. and their mother. This was followed by a ten year battle to get them back which took her to the European High Court and around the world. During the battle she met her husband, the now former British Ambassador to the U.S, Sir Christopher Meyer. Despite the pain of what happened she still remembered fondly how he said: “I wanted to help her but I couldn’t so I did the next best thing and married her.”

During the conference she spoke of how “you don’t take children away from a mother and expect her to sit quietly. I was like a lioness and went out there to get them back.” Even though she had the courts and law on her side it was still an incredible struggle to get her children back. Over the ten years it lasted she only got to see them for 24 hours and that was under watch from social workers.

In 1998, Lady Meyer co-founded the International Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and a year later she founded PACT (Parents & Abducted Children, Together) which she still runs today. Now Lady Catherine is a source of help for many people going through similar things. International Child Abduction is more common than even she thought.

  • “When you have a passion, when you have an objective and when you believe, you can do it.”


Arlene Phillips OBE

Raised in working class Manchester and losing her mother young, Arlene has found the strength to find success in her passion and talent for dancing. After going to London for a weekend of dance lessons she never returned back up north. She said in her speech: “It was like a light bulb, I knew at that moment that I never wanted to go back.” From then she “took all kinds of awful jobs and did anything and everything to earn some money.” The job that started a chain of success was babysitting for producer and director Ridley Scott. From here her “life became crazy” and she went on to choreograph television commercials in America, West End musicals, start up famous dance group Hot Gossip and, what she’s most recently famous for, judge the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Initially she was not interested in the show and rejected many offers for an interview. In the end the BBC drove her to the filming of the pilot and it was then she “knew something about the programme would be special without knowing quite how special.”

But, in 2009 she was replaced as the outspoken judge by Alisha Dixon, former winner of the show. Despite it being because of her age and an attempt to attract younger viewers the BBC gave her other reasons she is still unwilling to talk about. Although this was an upsetting time, especially as someone very dear to her passed away the day before, Arlene didn’t wallow. She always encouraged her children to “move on” and took her own advice.

  • “There’s only one thing in life that one needs to find and that is determination.”


Forward Ladies hosted the event and it was mainly members and their guests who went. Their Business Development Manager, Linda Barlow, said: “This is an organisation whose role it is to support ladies from all professions and backgrounds in business to be successful.” For more information or to enquire about becoming a member click here.

By Sarah Walters

Arlene Phillips and Katie Piper honour International Women’s Day in Sheffield

8 Mar

To mark International Women’s Day the Sheffield Copthorne Hotel welcomed famous guest speakers and raised over £1000 for its charity of the year, the Katie Piper Foundation. Guests included Katie herself and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips.

The aim of the conference was to not only raise money but also inspire people and show women from all walks of life that they can be successful. Linda Barlow, the Business Development Manager for Forward Ladies who hosted the event, said how important it was for the organisation and that, “International Women’s Day is a major event in our calendar.”

The day started with Penny Mallory, the first female contestant in the World Rally Championship who told the audience, “You have extraordinary power to make things happen that you haven’t even tapped into yet.”

Penny was followed by Lady Catherine Meyer. She had a £100,000 and ten year battle for custody of her children after her ex-husband abducted them.

Both ladies spoke of the struggles they have faced, the triumphs they achieved and gave their own advice on how to be successful.

Arlene Phillips then told the audience of her life and how it felt to be replaced by a younger woman, Alesha Dixon, on Strictly Come Dancing. She said, “If the BBC had been upfront about why they replaced me I would have been ok,” but the reasons they gave upset her and she still didn’t want to talk about them.

Katie drew the conference to a close. She looked nervous but came across as confident and when posing for photos seemed to revert back to her model self. She spoke of how the burn left her feeling desperate and isolated, “as I got my confidence back I started to feel sexy and cool but society wouldn’t see that so I started the charity to change it.” Liz Green from BBC radio Leeds said:“You don’t see a disability, you see an amazing woman.”

The Katie Piper Foundation helps burns victims beyond the medical help. It offers advice on makeup and medicinal tattooing, help with building confidence and other support needed.

As well as the speakers the Lord Mayor also attended to show his support. He said: “I wish I could have been here all morning. It encourages people to get thinking, things like this really are important.”

For more information on, or to donate to, the Katie Piper Foundation click here  and for more information on, or to become a member of, Forward Ladies click here

By Sarah Walters

Happy International Women’s Day!

8 Mar

How ironic that Pancake Day is on the same day as International Woman’s Day……What better what to celebrate women’s liberation and equality than banishing them to the kitchen to make copious amounts of pancakes!


Yes, that’s right Ladies, although today is the much loved Pancake Day, it is also International Woman’s Day. So to celebrate this we are devoting a whole week to the most inspirational women, not just in fashion, but who inspire with how they live their lives. Don’t worry men we have not forgotten about you and will be dedicating a whole week to you as well! But for this week it is all about women and their triumphs. 🙂

Carrie-Ann Vessey

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