The theme of International Women’s Day 2019 is #BalanceforBetter

I am celebrating this day because I have been lucky enough to meet so many wonderful talented autistic women and devoted mothers of children on the autism spectrum.

Perhaps, most of all, I celebrate autistic women having access to appropriate education. We need to support autistic women from all around the world to receive the education and support they so rightly deserve. We need to help them build a future career so that they can make their mark in this world just like everyone else.

Paula McGowan: Overseas Autism Ambassador

Paula McGowan’s son Oliver died in Southmead Hospital after given medication against her wishes. Paula launched a petition calling on the government to introduce new training and is campaigning to the government to ensure all healthcare professionals get mandatory training to address the inequalities facing autistic individuals and learning disability. Paula says: ‘I support International Women’s Day because it empowers women to be exactly who they want to be. Without women, life would not exist. We are strong and with the right skills we can do anything we choose to do, be anything we want to be.’

Paula McGowan is an Overseas Autism Ambassador.

Siena Castellon: Autism Ambassador

Siena shares: ‘This year, I signed a publishing deal with Jessica Kingsley Publishing to write a survival guide for autistic teen girls. Although many books have been written by professionals for parents of autistic children and for autistic boys, my survival guide will be the first book that is written by a teen autistic girl for teen autistic girls.

I also want my book to recognise and celebrate autistic women, which is why I’m delighted that it will be illustrated by the talented Rebecca Burgess, an autistic illustrator and that the amazing Temple Grandin has tentatively agreed to write the foreword.

Since the 2019 theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is #BalanceforBetter, I am thrilled to have been given an opportunity to play a small part in creating a more gender-balanced world.’

Jo Luck: Charity Champion

Jo shares: ‘Just living in today’s society is tough: Everywhere we look there are pressures, demands and expectations, some of which are of course based on our gender. Being female has never deterred me from anything.

‘I chose a pair of kickboxing gloves over dancing shoes and before that, it was a football. In my sport, for a long time women have not been as revered as the male competitors, there have been less weight categories and less competitors but this is changing. It wasn’t enough to be good at my sport: I had to be special and now when I step into a training session to spar with my team mates I’m no longer looked as female, I’m looked at as a fighter and I will hold my own with the men.

‘Being female does not make us weaker, softer or less capable – we have the capacity to be strong in every way. Things which are seen as weak such as being more emotional can make us stronger and give advantages. It is simply what we make of what we have, what we want to see and achieve and doing that. I’ve had a painful time over the last 10 months – I was very ill and I couldn’t do the things I usually would. But I’m now turning that corner, I will always look to win in my sport and always approach anything with the aim of winning but regardless of that I win everyday.

Everywhere we look there are pressures, demands and expectations.

‘It’s not a man’s world or a woman’s world. It’s a world which should be open to us all, where we are free to be true to ourselves’

Shola Mos-Shogbamimu: Lawyer, Political and Women’s Rights Activist

As we celebrate #IWD2019 it is time for a reckoning of gender and power. Let’s consciously drive a wedge to end misogyny and use intersectionality as a tool to #balanceforbetter.’

Charlie Brooks: Actress and Model

Women are strong and being heard louder and louder every day, let’s keep shouting, let’s keep shining and let’s keep inspiring. Happy international Women’s Day!

Dani Bowman: Overseas Autism Ambassador

Dani shares: ‘English is my second language, autism was my first. I did not speak until I was 6 years old. Catching up with my English was really difficult. The professionals said I would not finish high school or amount to anything, but they were wrong. I now own a talent development company with a focus on arts and animation, helping young adults with autism and other related disabilities to develop their talents and enter the workforce. If I can do it, you can do it.’

 Women are strong and being heard louder and louder every day.

Kacey Ainsworth: Patron

Kacey shares: ‘It is important to recognise the actions of women. We are half the planet but seldom are our voices heard, or our actions and accomplishments recognised hence international the need for women’s day. One day to celebrate what is it to be a women in a male-dominated world.’

Dr Pam Spurr: Self-help expert

Dr Spurr shares: ‘Find your sense of purpose in life and set goals to reach it. Even if the road ahead feels tough, never lose sight of those goals. Right now you might not realise how much inner strength you have but it’s there. It’s just waiting for you to tap into it. Never feel embarrassed about asking for help to reach your goals, we all need help. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to ask. And don’t forget, your goals may change over time and take you in a new direction. That can be the exciting part – reaching out for new goals.’

We have to find our sense of purpose in life and set goals to reach it.

Cheryl Fergison: Actress 

Cheryl shares: ‘No matter who you are or what different abilities you have you should always be proud of your personal achievements. Never let people tell you that you can’t do something because if you want it enough you’re personal challenge and motivation is enough to show how much you can do the impossible.

Always try to be as positive as you can even when things around you seem to pull you in another direction. Remember the world is full of very different people and the world is lucky to have a fantastic individual as yourself. Strive for your own happiness and love yourself, and best wishes for everything you do.’

Dr Anna Kennedy, OBE is an educator who has worked to provide an improved education and other facilities for children with autism spectrum disorders.