International Women’s Day: Strong Sisters

To mark International Women's Day, Care Experienced writer Millicent Wenlock has written a blog discussing some of the challenges Care Experienced women and girls experience. Plus, how we can celebrate our successes and the achievements of the women around us.

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Hi, I’m Millicent and I’m a 3rd-year student at the University of Stirling. In my spare time, I am a human rights consultant for the Scottish Human Rights Commission and a youth advisor to the House of Lords inquiry into the transition from education to employment for neurodivergent and disabled people. I am most notably recognised for my recent achievement becoming a finalist at the Undergraduate of the Year Awards for a second year running.

International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated on March 8th, is a day to celebrate the achievements of women and girls globally. But for Care Experienced women, it can also be a time to reflect on our unique experiences and the powerful women in the feminist movement who can inspire us.

The theme for IWD 2024 is Inspiring Inclusion. This means:

“When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world.”

Women who have experienced care often come from marginalised backgrounds marked by economic, social, and cultural inequalities. Additionally, they may face further challenges due to their gender, such as discrimination, stereotyping, and limited opportunities to access education, employment, and healthcare. These factors can significantly impact Care Experienced women’s lives, including their mental and physical health, relationships, and sense of identity and belonging. It is essential to acknowledge and address the unique challenges faced by Care Experienced women to support their well-being and promote social justice and equality for all.

Facing the System as a Woman

For those who grew up in the care system, life can be particularly challenging, and for women, the journey can be even more complex. This is due to a range of factors, including gender-based vulnerabilities; they may be more susceptible to abuse and exploitation, both within the care system and outside of it. Disrupted identity development where the challenges of navigating the care system can make it harder for them to form a secure sense of self and limited support networks, as leaving the system often means leaving behind the only support network they’ve known, leading to feelings of isolation and vulnerability. These combined factors contribute to a unique set of challenges that young women who grew up in care must navigate, making their journey toward independence and well-being even more demanding.

In addition to these difficulties, Care Experienced women may face additional challenges in areas such as education, employment, and housing, where gender inequality can further disadvantage them. This can lead to further struggles in achieving their goals and living a fulfilled life. It is essential to recognise these challenges and work towards creating a system that provides equal opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their background or gender.

To help combat some of these issues, particularly loneliness and access to education and employment, the Unite Foundation created the online All of Us community for Care Experienced and estranged young people across the UK, where I worked as a Community Relations Manager and founded the All of Us employability group, which I still run voluntarily, supporting over 840 members of the Care Experienced community from across the UK. It is a beautiful, inclusive, and supportive community that understands each other from shared and similar lived experiences, and I highly recommend joining and connecting as the Sounding Board who help with the development of the community, are planning more local in-person events such as the recent dinner for ‘nobody eats alone’ day.

Finding Strength in Sisterhood

International Women’s Day is not only a day to recognise the achievements of women, but it is also a day to celebrate their strength and resilience. Women who have experienced care have overcome significant obstacles and demonstrate remarkable resourcefulness. The feminist movement serves as a reminder that we are not alone and can inspire us to continue to fight for equality and justice. Despite adversity, Care Experienced women are survivors who have navigated a challenging system and emerged stronger. Some of the most inspirational people for me have been other Care Experienced women.

I recall sitting in parliament in Edinburgh listening to the evidence session for The Promise Review. Writing notes, seated amongst the others who had the privilege to have been invited, some of whom I had met and heard the stories of their resilience before, stories that reminded me why I invest so much time into supporting the Care Experienced community. I was reminded of a quote someone once said to me, “sometimes the most ordinary of people is where you will find the most inspiration“.  Those people inspire me to persevere in influencing change within the Care Experienced community.

Finding Our Place in the Movement

There are different strands of feminism, each with its own focus. Some feminists emphasise intersectionality, acknowledging that various forms of oppression – like sexism, poverty, and racism – can overlap and affect us in different ways. As Care Experienced women, we bring a unique perspective to the movement. We can share our stories and advocate for policies that address the specific needs of women in care.

Celebrating Ourselves

But International Women’s Day isn’t just about external forces. It’s also a day to celebrate ourselves, our achievements, and the fantastic women around us. Think about the women who supported you in care, maybe a social worker, a care worker, or another female Care Experienced friend.

It wasn’t until I did the #IAmRemarkable session last summer that I became comfortable celebrating my own achievements. The #IAmRemarkable session is a workshop designed to empower individuals, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to celebrate their achievements and develop self-promotion skills. It addresses the challenges many face in discussing their accomplishments, particularly in professional settings. Overall, the #IAmRemarkable session is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to increase their confidence in highlighting their achievements and advocating for themselves.

I also have my Who Cares? Scotland & Unite Foundation friends to thank for drastically improving my confidence to the point I have now done two podcast interviews, neither of which would have happened without the support I’ve received from the Care Experienced and estranged community over the last year.

Click to listen to Millicent's podcast episode on Spotify.

Some of my favourite changemakers in the Care Experienced community include Fatima Whitbread, Lucy Kate Barnes and Rebecca Munro, all inspirational women in their own right. Do you know a Care Experienced woman doing extraordinary things? A lawyer, a doctor, a community leader? Let’s celebrate their success and champion them as role models.

Building a Brighter Future

This International Women’s Day, let’s embrace the inclusion of women. Let’s continue to fight for a world where all women can thrive, regardless of their background. Let’s also celebrate the strength and resilience that defines Care Experienced women. 

Remember, you are not alone. You are part of a powerful sisterhood; we can create a brighter future together.

Reach out, connect with other Care Experienced women, and find your voice.

Happy International Women’s Day!