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Choose to challenge

Monday was International Women’s Day. Every year on 8 March, across the globe, the achievements, life journeys, challenges and aspirations of women and girls are recognised and celebrated. The day acts as a prompt for all of us to look at how we can contribute to raising awareness of bias and help forge a gender-equal world and also reflect on women who have made a true difference to our children and young people.

This year, the theme was Choose to Challenge and this can mean different things to different people in different situations – challenging gender stereotypes, challenging gender-based violence and sexual abuse, challenging societal expectations, challenging inequality in the workplace, and challenging ourselves if we find that we’re making judgements based on gender.

As the DCS in Norfolk I have the privilege of leading the council’s work to champion Norfolk’s children and, in my blog to my council colleagues, called out the need to challenge any of the inequalities we see today so that we have a better world now and for this future generation.

My role gives me insight into the issues faced by girls and young women, but it also gives me the opportunity to see how, with the right interventions, we can support them to overcome these, helping to build resilience, self-esteem and self-belief.

Although we can’t be complacent in tackling the root causes of inequality or underplay the lasting impact that experiences can have, we can choose to challenge the idea that that circumstances define women and girls and what they can achieve.

This has been apparent in our work with girls who have come to Norfolk as part of the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children programme. Many of these young women have experienced extreme hardships and trauma but with appropriate support and care they have been able to regain a sense of autonomy and build more positive futures. Friendships, independent living, study, relationships, motherhood and careers now feature in these girls’ stories. This is credit to the those working across our services and credit to these girls and young women themselves.

We have to be ambitious for all children and young people, for all girls and young women, if we want to create a future where they can thrive and flourish.

International Women’s Day is also an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the lives of women who have made a significant difference to children and young people. Our much loved ADCS colleague and friend Helen Blackman sadly passed away last week, and our thoughts and prayers are with Helen’s family, friends and teams at this very sad time. Helen was a compassionate leader with strong values that shone through everything she did. In her role with ADCS her contribution to key policy areas was diligent and relentless, and putting children and young people at the heart was her drive and motivation, which made her the special person that she was.

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