Be Bold For Change: It runs in our blood

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is be bold for change. Most people, if not everyone, have experienced fear and overcome it. And I have no doubt that you have all been bold for change to get to where you are today.

Being bold runs in our blood. Many of our lives have been built upon a legacy of women being bold. Grandmothers and mothers who migrated to the UK to build a better life for us. Our mums who raised us and worked hard straight after the school run. The suffragettes who among many things fought for our right to vote.

My Nan raised 11 children in India including my mum. She tended to goats, a cow, and supplied milk to the villagers before settling in Birmingham with my grandad where she helped get their children married, build a successful business and passed on words of wisdom to me and her other grandchildren. The most extraordinary part of her story is that when she came to England, she became completely blind. She was bold through a change she didn’t ask for, to create positive change for her family.

Our battles may be different to those of our ancestors, but that does not mean that we should take our freedoms for granted. The work continues with us. Today, we are holding the baton so that future generations have equality, social justice and live a fairer society. Today, our battles may be different, but we have been shown battles can be conquered.

I began my journey in journalism at the age of 15, gaining work experience while studying a degree in English where I was taught by one of the most renowned feminists of our time Professor Jacqueline Rose to whom I owe my passion, and Master’s Degree in Philosophy and Literature where I was one of two females on the course.

I went on to presenting live shows on Zee TV, where I interviewed experts, guests, celebrities and used my platform to raise awareness of topics regarded as taboo or with stigma attached to them like mental health, depression, of course women empowerment, same-sex relationships. I wanted to open up conversation within families and society. I’ve also presented for the BBC Asian Network.

I’m the only person in my family to embark on a career in journalism. So I had to find my own way. I explored my interests, connected with people I genuinely found interesting and over the last 11 years, I’ve built my own network and made a place for myself in media.

Last year, I was elected to stand as a candidate for the Women’s Equality Party in the Greater London Assembly where I campaigned to end violence against women. And I am really happy to say that on 1st March, the government announced compulsory sex and relationship education in schools. I was campaigning at a time when it would take women 50 years to close the gender pay gap. Today, I am happy to say that has bridged a bit more to 25 years. One day, I will be able to say it has closed completely. I became ambassador of charity Binti which smashes shame around menstruation – a word I never thought I’d say in public.

And I campaigned for equal treatment of women in media which I am continuing as North East representative of the ITV Women’s Network. I’m now a journalist for ITV News in the North East. I was moved from home to follow my dreams. Change is scary. But as Steve Jobs says ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.’

I’ll tell you how to always be sure your future dots are connected. Find your purpose. Your purpose is important in being bold for change, because fulfilling what you came here on earth to fulfil will always be greater than the temporary feeling of fear.

Every morning, I say: ‘I am awake. God/universe, let me fulfil what I came in this life to do and let me do it to my greatest potential’. I live every day like my life depends on it – because it does. My purpose expects me to be present. The actions of my predecessors expect me to be present. I don’t take my freedoms for granted.

We have no idea of our capabilities. I had no idea I’d make a home for myself in the North East. I’m sure our grandparents and parents didn’t think they make a home for themselves in the UK. We can see our limitations but we cannot see the infinity that lies beyond our limitations until we decide to act. Take a moment to think of something you would like to act upon and change either for yourself or for others.

I hope you’ll running alongside me and holding the baton from our foremothers. We’re all in it together – creating change and being the best we can be for ourselves and the benefit of others. Be bold for change.

*This is the speech I gave at the House of Commons on Monday 6th March 2017 for International Women’s Day.