For International Women’s Day on the 2nd March, Bristol Women’s Voice are thrilled to announce our ‘Unrestricted by Disability’ panel: Alexandra Adams, Gina Hopkins, Katie Silverthorne, Kerrie Nicholson, and Nina Boswell Brown. These inspirational women will be talking about their experiences and achievements, which cover fitness, health and sport, business, journalism and the world of medicine. Ahead of the day, we asked our panellists some questions to discover what International Women’s Day means to them and their motivation for being a part of the event.
Capturing the essence of the day Nina described International Women’s Day as “a great opportunity to celebrate the diversity of women and women’s lives; the choices available to women to live the life they want to lead, a time to reflect on how things have changed for women and any changes that still need to happen.” The theme of reflecting on the past and considering ‘where we go from here’ in the future will be prominent in our panellists’ debate as we hear their thoughts on issues such as disability, accessibility and acceptance in the workplace which Alexandra suggests we might be able to combat through “varying roles in the arts and storytelling.” The importance of writing and storytelling and its productive values for sharing experiences has been explored by Katie who co-wrote the best-selling ‘Mumpreneur On Fire 4’ alongside running her own business Memory Zoo. Alexandra is also currently writing her own book, as well as studying to qualify as a doctor, which is focuses on the “discrimination I experience through my studies, how critical illness has reshaped the ways in which I get to my goals, and how I still strive to see different corners of the world from alternative perspectives.”
Kerrie has shared her experiences in struggling to find employment as a disabled woman and has highlighted preconceptions as the biggest problem for disabled people. Making presumptions and especially the difficulties which can often arise from ‘invisible disabilities’ is an important subject matter which we hope can be explored within the discussion. With three of our panellists having founded their own businesses, we are interested to hear their insights on the topics of the workplace, employment and business for disabled women. Alexandra’s experiences as medical student in a field still largely dominated by men will also shed light on the importance of equality and raising up female voices in careers where women are often in the minority.
Both Nina and Gina run their own businesses focused on sport, health and well-being for disabled people, ‘Sitting Fit Yoga’ and ‘Adaptive Martial Arts’ respectively. Considering this, Nina highlighted the importance of looking after your mental health as she says: “The importance of balance in life… how we look after our mental and physical health throughout our lives. So important to all women but can sometimes be more of a challenge to disabled women to achieve that balance.” Gina’s experience as an athlete in her own right will also shed light on being in the world of sport as a disabled woman.
Considering these topics, Gina stressed the role of media and social media is women’s lives which she has perceived as often driven by exploiting people’s weaknesses. Alexandra and Kerrie both have an active online presence and both have their own blogs (https://setting-sights.blog/ and https://www.rifemagazine.co.uk/author/kerrie_n/), which they use as a platform to share their experiences and views on more widespread issues. In our currently heightened climate of social media obsession, we are interested to hear our panellists’ personal experiences of online platforms and how they have positively and negatively influenced their lives.
When discussing equality, Katie reminds us that it is “important to remember that equality for women means equality for ALL women – no matter how you identify yourself in this diverse world. That means that women of colour, disabled women, trans-gender, non-binary and anyone else that identifies as a woman needs to be given a true and equal voice.” The questions surrounding language and labels for women, and especially disabled women, is a complex and interesting debate which we hope our panellists can share their views on.
We can’t wait to welcome our incredibly inspirational women to the panel for a lively discussion to hear about their experiences and achievements and the women who inspire them!
By BWV community reporter Emma Wall