Reflecting on IWD - two weeks on

Just over a week on from International Women's Day, I have been reflecting over the past few days on some of the amazing women that have helped Groundswell get to where we are today. This year's theme for IWD was 'break the bias' and that has been one of Groundswell's core ethics from the very start. We have been intent on breaking the bias, breaking hate narratives and breaking discriminatory practices, as we use our 'find, connect, amplify' method to instead grow love, peace and understanding in the communities in which we work.

Looking back at last week, my week started incredibly when I met the inspirational Shukria Barakzai - an Afghan politician, journalist and a prominent defender of women's rights. Among a range of accolades, she was the Ambassador of Afghanistan to Norway and has also received the International Editor of the Year Award.

For the week of International Women's Day, Shukria was the perfect person to meet. Following the original fall of the Taliban in the early 2000s, she founded a national weekly newspaper that campaigned on a range of women's rights and highlighted issues like maternal and infant mortality, forced marriage and violence against women - all widespread issues across Afghanistan. I asked her on Monday (see video) what is most important to challenging bias, and her reply: "self-confidence and wisdom". I see these as wise words, especially as they came from someone with such a rich history of making a difference - something I am determined that Groundswell Project will continue to do as we grow and expand into new fields and new missions. Self-confidence is something I have always had, and I hope through listening to wise counsel and making humble and positive decisions, wisdom is something I can continually achieve in the work that I do.

We look forward to working more closely in new ventures with Shukria over the coming months, but as I mentioned there are so many amazing women that have already helped to play their part in growing the Groundswell vision. From the early days of Groundswell, I knew how important it was to be guided by people who knew what they were talking about. That's what prompted me to set up our Leadership Council , advocates and sources of advice who have been infinitely helpful to me and my Groundswell colleagues as we have grown since launching in 2019. That Leadership Council includes a range of incredible female role models - people like Dr Erin Saltman from the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism and formerly of Facebook; Teri Whitcraft, a senior producer at ABC News; Hanan Ibrahim, an amazing activist and campaigner in Kenya; and Sarah Nelson, Financial Director at Sainsbury's and twice voted in the top 100 Ethnic Minority Leaders by the Financial Times.

These and others have been instrumental in guiding me through what at times has been a confusing - but exhilarating - journey that is already taking me (and my incredible Groundswell Project core team!) to more new places and meeting more new people than I could have ever imagined. The Groundswell journey is still in its infancy but I have no doubt that we will continue to grow, thanks in no small part to the influence of some incredible and world-changing women. Let's continue to break the bias wherever we see it!