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International Women's Day: Smashing the Stereotypes

Today is international women’s day! I

It’s a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women all around the world, and a day that acts as a reminder that a balanced world is a better world as we continue to raise awareness against gender bias and take action for equality. 

As uea(su)’s Students with Disabilities Officer (invisible disabilities place), I wanted to take this opportunity to write a blog that highlights a few of the many women that I believe are incredible role models for women who have disabilities or are overcoming tough times. Here are the eleven iconic women that I have chosen... 


  1. Anne Hegerty – diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2005, she’s famously known as ‘The Governess’ on The Chase but has been involved in numerous TV quiz shows, ranking as 55th (second among women) in the World Quizzing Championships. She also inspired many with her journey on I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here 2018.  

  2. Hannah Cockroft – diagnosed with cerebral palsy after experiencing 2 cardiac arrests within 48 hours of birth, causing damage to her brain, to her legs, feet and hips. She represented Yorkshire in wheelchair basketball and won a silver medal! Since this she has also been involved in wheelchair racing. She’s a Paralympian, winning 2 gold medals at the summer 2012 Olympics, and 3 gold medals at Rio 2016. Hannah holds the world record for 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, and 1500 meters, as well as the Paralympic records for 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, and 800 meters.   


       3.   Francesca Martinez –has cerebral palsy. Launched a campaign in 2012 calling for an end to government cuts to disability benefits, gaining over 100,000 signatures. She uses her public profile to raise awareness of disabilities, as well as being a patron to several charities. Won the Public Affairs Achiever of the year award in 2013 and was named one of Britain’s most influential women in 2014 in the BBC Woman’s Hour Power List. She is also an actress, writer, and comedian. 



  1. Cherylee Houston – Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome type III (EDS). Experiences constant pain as a result of her disability but has used acting as a release. She’s a successful actress, featuring in TV shows such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Doctors, The Bill, Holby City, and Little Britain.  



  1. Jess Thom – Tourette syndrome. Founder of ‘Tourettes Hero’ in 2010, an online blog and information service celebrating Tourettes, reclaiming some of the misconceptions about the syndrome and raising awareness. She featured in Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014 with her comedic work, going on to tour worldwide and featuring on many TV shows, such as Russel Howard’s Good News. She has also created and presented some of her own theatre pieces.  



  1. Libby Clegg – Stargardt’s macular dystrophy. Paralympian, 2013: she won silver medals in the IPC athletics World Championships in 100 meters and 200 meters, 2012: won silver in the Paralympic Games 100 meters, and gold in IPC Athletics European Championships in the 100 meters and 200 meters. She won a silver medal at the 2006 IPC Athletics World Championships, aged 16. Came 3rd in the BBC’s young sports personality of the year 2008. Has a total of 17 medals over 7 years: 3 bronze, 8 silver, and 6 gold! 


  1. Sarah Gordy –Down’s Syndrome. She has appeared on many TV shows, such as Doctors, Call the Midwife, and Cbeebies, as well as performing in several theatres across the UK. She has performed as a dancer internationally, and her modelling has enabled her to be a featured in a variety of adverts, such as being involved in the Equity Union in the UK and featuring on the cover of Equity Magazine this year.  



  1. Lady Gaga – Fibromyalgia. She has won a total of 246 awards, as well as being nominated for 572. Has used her platform to complete a huge range of activist work, such as setting up the Born This Way Foundation, fighting for LGBTQ rights & equality, and putting herself forward as a symbol of feminism. She has acted against conforming to gender norms and spoken up against body shaming.  



  1. Frida Kahlo – Mexican painter, born with spina bifida, contracted polio, and was also involved in an accident at 18 overcoming numerous injuries, such as a broken spine. Portrayed herself and her creativity through her paintings, which had a heavy female focus. She was present in the political scene, many seeing her as a radical of her time. She has become a huge face of feminism and the LGBTQ community since her death in 1954. 




  1. Rosa May Billinghurst – campaigned for women’s rights from her wheelchair having contracted polio in childhood. She was an active member and organiser of the Women’s Social and Political Union during the suffragette movement. She was imprisoned on several occasions, as well as taking part in the famous hunger strikes.  



  1. Emma Healey – had depression during her teenage years, experiencing a breakdown at age 15. She is an author and graduate of UEA, completing a master's in creative writing, and winner of the Costa First Novel Award in 2014 with her book ‘Elizabeth is Missing’, which also became a Sunday Times Bestseller. 


I hope this blog provokes you to think about some of the women that have inspired you, and to also remember to celebrate your own achievements every day of the year. 

For more information on what you can get involved with on campus to celebrate International Women’s Day check out Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer Georgina’s blog all about it!  


Emma Moxon- Students with Disabilities Officer (invisible disabilities place).  

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