Charlie Webster, TV presenter and women's rights campaigner, was one of the keynote speakers at our Fearless event in London last week. Her speech came after those of two inspiring women from Kenya and Egypt, who have faced physical, psycological and legal abuse in their countries.
Charlie unfolded her story of sexual abuse from when she was 15 and talked about her decision to resign from being a patron of football club Sheffield United over their handling of the Ched Evans case. As she recalled those events with both horror and strength our guests seemed to be coming to the same realisation all at once: violence against women can happen anywhere and it can take different forms and shapes.
We caught up with Charlie after the event to learn more about her story and ask about the fearless women in her life.
Tell us about a woman who helped you overcome your fears
My mum. We have been through so much together and always stood by each other. My mum has always fought for me from the moment she found out she was pregnant - she was a teenager when she had me and as you can imagine there were many barriers in her way. She is strong, brave and resilient.
What big lessons did you learn from your mum?
I have learnt so much from my mum and her experiences, mostly to strive and fight for what I believe. My mum is a fighter and taught me to never give up. She also taught me to be empathetic, to be kind, to listen and to understand other people. She has always stuck up for injustices no matter how big or small and I've definitely got this passion from her. The biggest lesson she taught me though, is to never settle for second best and to live my life how I want to.
What piece of advice would you give to your future or imaginary daughter?
If I were to have a daughter, I would hope to give her lots of advice – that she should always believe in herself, listen to her heart, her dreams and do everything and be everything she wants to be. You've only got one life so get on and live it.
What do you think are the biggest challenges faced by women today?
Although we’ve come a long way, I think the biggest challenge for women today, sadly, is still sexism. There is still lots to do.
Women have been left out of leadership roles and this needs to change. It is important we recognise the strength of both men and women to work together in leadership and what both sexes can bring to the table. Women are still getting paid less in the same jobs as men. This is not OK.
What do you think is necessary to overcome these challenges?
It is crucial for girls to know that they can achieve. I believe it all starts with education, we need to completely dismiss all gender stereotypes. We have to educate the next generation to not inherit the outdated attitudes that hold women back. It is important that girls have positive and strong role models in their personal life and in their chosen careers and education, and it is key to educate young girls and boys on positive and heathy relationships and gender identity. We must make sure that we work together as men and women and not alienate either sex.
Taking action with ActionAid against violence
Join Charlie in supporting ActionAid's #fearless campaign by celebrating a woman who stood with you. Share a photo or a message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #whostoodwithyou and a link to ActionAid's petition, calling on David Cameron to help end violence against women: standwithfearlesswomen.
Charlie Webster is one of many women who has suffered abuse and has bravely spoken out about it. She is now supporting our #fearless campaign to end violence against women everywhere, by calling on the UK government to stand with women at this month's UN General Assembly.
Photo: Iona Wolff / ActionAid UK