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Female Empowerment Society Woman of the Year Speech

Last night I had the privilege of presenting the Woman of the Year award at my university, and I was asked to preface with a short speech. The evening was magically thought out, planned, and presented by Chichester’s Female Empowerment Society and every detail celebrated and respected women in all our forms and our supporters.

 

Here’s what I said

(audio embedded, text below):

It’s a pleasure to be here with you all to celebrate women in all our forms: those in the main stream and those on someone’s margins; on a pedestal or deprived of recognition. We are all equal in our humanity whoever we are, what ever we look like, whatever our own unique abilities, beliefs or life-ways. We are here to celebrate our shared humanity and contributions as women at this, Chichester’s Woman of the Year Awards evening, organised and led by the Female Empowerment Society.

Across the globe women are phenomenal role models, and this has been a year of awakenings.

I’d like to speak of two specific images of female empowerment:

Firstly, this year Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ was a montage of the women from across walks of life who had the courage to speak out with their stories of #metoo. Time said: “These Silence Breakers have started a revolution of refusal”.

Do not underestimate the power of a single voice. Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat in 1955 and became a leading civil rights activist. Malala Yousafzai courageously said no to a terrorist and won the Nobel Prize aged 17 for her advocacy for the right of all children to education.

The second image is of a child. Two weeks ago a marvellously hopeful image of a little girl looking up at the portrait of Michelle Obama made its way round the internet. That girl stood tall and looked up and someone subtitled the image: ‘representation matters’.

That’s why this evening is so important. The respect, recognition, and compassion demonstrated here tonight toward and by our fellow women and supporters, matters.

There are wonderful women all around us, and each one of your voices matters. There is still much to do, but we are not alone and we walk in the company of great women past and present.

Even here in 1873, 44 years before women could even vote, Sarah Trevor was the first woman principal of Bishop Otter College, and now 144 years later that legacy continues with our own Vice Chancellor Professor Jane Longmore.

I’d like to share one more thing, a poem by Maya Angelou. I’m going to take a liberty of slightly changing the last two lines. This is

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

 

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,

They say they still can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

 

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal women,

That’s us.

 

I am proud to stand in the company of so many strong, beautiful, women and supporters of women tonight. I respect and applaud each one of you.

 

And I am especially pleased to read out the nominations for Woman of the Year:

____________

It was a night of celebration. I was very pleased to have my husband and daughter there to support the event and my contribution. It was especially fun to encourage my daughter to smash the patriarchy cookie – and it was delicious!

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Smashing the patriarchy cookie at the Woman of the Year awards at @ucsu_fes hosted event to celebrate the contribution of all who associate as female, non-binary, and who support women. It was an honour to be a part of the evening and especially meaningful to have my husband and daughter with us.

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Thank you especially to Jenni Block, Holly Allum, and to Professor Catherine Harper for inviting me to take part in the wonderful celebrations. I look forward to supporting FES in the years to come. You matter and you are making a difference.

 

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