Posted 11.03.2021

As part of our celebrations of International Women's Day on Monday 8th March, we asked Michaela Hollywood, one of our ONSIDE project Community Navigators and a well known and respected disability advocate who has been in the disability rights arena since she was 17, to give us her thoughts on this year's theme 'Choose to Challenge'.

Michaela says:

Challenging anything these days is difficult. But in these most difficult days, taking our places to ensure we do enact change is more important than ever.

'Choose to Challenge' was the theme of this years International Women’s Day celebrations. That for me, as a disabled woman who has been shielding throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and who will reach a whole year of shielding on March 12, is the most poignant theme we could have had.

I have watched many marvellous women in the N.Ireland disability community smash barriers. Whether they are Carers advocating for their children, siblings or parents, those living with invisible disabilities challenging stereotypes around being mask exempt or disabled women themselves speaking out about living life during a pandemic.

I have been in the disability rights arena since I was 17, and one of the first people I met who inspired me to push forwards was Rosemary Frazer. She was formidable but kind and gentle, inspiring me to keep pushing forward. Born and bred in Belfast, we both met in a training session in London and Rosemary gave me those first glimpses of what strong women can achieve. In fact, it was thanks to Rosemary that I was able to go to my students union when I was at university. A decade before she got the lift permanently turned on.

Women in the disability community are diverse. They stretch across many intersections, they break barriers and build bridges. Perhaps best of all though, we get to do that together.

We choose to challenge as a group. Because it’s right for women, and disabled women.

We are better as a society when inclusion - for all who are marginalised or oppressed - is achieved. I choose to challenge so that inclusion for all is a reality.