6 March 2018
Fantastic five - (l to r) Marai Larasi, Shireen Ahmed, Marcia Willis Stewart, Michelle Moore, Rachel Yankey ©WiF
Immense. Empowering. Inspiring. Emotional. Passionate. Uplifting.
Those were just some of the words - and there were plenty more - used to describe Women in Football's 'Taking A Stand: Racism & Sexism in Football' event at The Library.
The evening, held ahead of International Women's Day, was attended by a sell-out crowd who were spell-bound and at times simply in awe of a quite remarkable panel of women.
WiF chair Anna Kessel got proceedings underway by welcoming host for the night, multi award-winning Sport & Inclusion Consultant Michelle Moore, and a stellar panel of Shireen Ahmed, Marai Larasi, Marcia Willis Stewart and Rachel Yankey OBE.
Shireen, a writer and co-host of BurnItDown podcast, had flown across the Atlantic to speak about 'Football and the hijab' at Upfront and Onside: The Women's Football Conference in Manchester this week.
However, she was so determined to support WiF that Shireen squeezed Monday night's event into her hectic schedule too.
All four panellists - ranging from footballer, to iconic civil rights lawyer to feminist campaigner to writer - shared their experiences - the good, the bad and the shockingly awful - with searing honesty.
The quartet, also offered superb words of encouragement, hope and wisdom to a captivated audience including this gem from Dr Angela Davis: "I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept."
England international footballer Lianne Sanderson was unable to attend on the night, but still took time out from training in Italy to send the following message, which sums up perfectly the eloquence and inspiration of an unforgettable evening:
Some people are very lucky in this world that they can go through life not being on the other end of being racially abused, received homophobic or sexiest comments, that’s great if that is you.
But you are an important factor in what happens going forward and who my message is to. That’s why I felt it was important to stand up for what is right with what happened to Eniola (Aluko).
Just because it may not happen to you, doesn’t mean your voice cannot help. We live in a ME culture now unfortunately where 99.9% of people only do something when it affects them.
I ask those of you in the room tonight, if you see it, hear it or experience it. You are not alone and things can be done, to resolve issues.
Unfortunately a majority of the time doing the right thing can make you an unpopular figure head but, for me, I sleep at night knowing that I am not perfect but I will always stand up for what I believe is right even if that is detrimental to future opportunities.
I will leave you with this quote from Albert Einstein....
“The World will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”
Women in football have been doing fantastic work for over 10 years now and long may it continue and nights like these.
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