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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Nimco Ali

International Women’s Day: Scary Spice, Camilla and me, just three sisters doing it for the ladies

Today is the first International Women’s Day in two years which women around the world will be able to celebrate in person. Covid has had a devastating impact on the lives of women and girls. From the horrific rise in domestic abuse to an increase in FGM, the pandemic laid bare how much more we need to do in order to make gender equality a reality. As an activist and survivor of abuse, it has been hard to watch so many suffer. But I also know there is hope.

Just yesterday, I was at two events where I was able to meet and talk to incredible people who are using their platform to do more for women and girls everywhere. At the Women’s Aid event in the House of Commons, I met Melanie Brown MBE — better known as Scary Spice. It was incredibly surreal to tell the woman who gave me the confidence to talk about FGM as a teenager how much she has changed my life and how, in my role as a independent adviser to the Government, I was willing to do whatever it took to ensure her campaign for survivors of abuse got the attention it deserved.

Mel talked not just about her experience of abuse at the hand of an ex, but also how she personally stepped in during lockdown to keep the Women’s Aid helpline open. It was a lifeline to so many and at one point 21,000 women were waiting to speak to someone about their abuse. At another event yesterday — hosted at Number 10 by Helen Grant, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Girls’ Education — I had the privilege of meeting Sophie, Countess of Wessex. Sophie had recently visited Sierra Leone, one of only three African countries that has not banned FGM. She had met women there working on this issue, seeking to make a better life for their daughters. Sophie’s knowledge and commitment to using her platform to help end FGM is something she shares with our future queen consort, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, another woman who will be hosting activists at Clarence House this International Women’s Day.

Camilla, who is the president of the Women of the World Festival, spoke last year about sexual violence and emphasised the need for us to do more on public sexual harassment. That’s an issue many seek to ignore or even reduce to banter.

So, as hard as Covid and its restrictions has been on the lives of so many women, and for all the setbacks it has forced on us in achieving a world where women and girls are safe, it has also given us an opportunity to build back better and differently. Our Government and others have recognised the need to invest more in the needs of women and girls. We have seen stronger and better legislation coming out to protect us all.

As someone who took her first step into activism in this paper, today I am hopeful that we will achieve the 2030 goal of gender equality. We are blessed with amazing women to celebrate. Let’s work towards a better world.

In other news...

After seeing myself as an NFT I still have little interest in the metaverse

Last night I came face-to-face with myself as a NFT, a piece of digital art made in my likeness. I am told that this is a non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain (a form of digital ledger) that can be sold and traded. To me, it looked like a portrait on a wall. What it really means is that I now exist in the metaverse.

As an African and someone who likes to keep her feet firmly on the ground, I have little interest in living in the metaverse. But there we are. At the launch of AllBright Meta, an ecosystem for women in the metaverse, where the artwork hung on its wall, my NFT could be bought by collectors who are creating a new world where — if the money is there — I can become an anti-FGM superhero, a character in their own digital creation. I know this all sounds wild. But we have also been locked up in our houses for two years, so anything is possible.

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