There have been many inspirational women from Wales through the centuries that have influenced far beyond their own communities and country. Many of these women are known to us and many more are not. In light of the 2017 International Women’s Day campaign theme, #BeBoldForChange, it is time we start sharing and celebrating the successes of today’s inspirational and influential Welsh women, to ensure their contributions encourage others to create a better Wales and a better world.

An important sector that often falls below the radar when looking at influential leaders, yet has a local, national and international reach, is the third sector. With a high proportion of female leaders in Wales it is a sector we need to hold up as an example to other sectors as well as future leaders.

The #BeBoldForChange campaign is an opportunity for these leaders to share and celebrate the important work they do and by doing so, influence a new generation of women to take up the mantle. These inspirational women have proven they are well versed in their work at making Wales a better place and reaching beyond Wales to promote Wales on an international stage, but as a group these leaders are not used to singing their own praises. The #BeBoldForChange campaign needs us to share stories about the real women in Wales making a difference in order to encourage others to follow suit. It is an excellent example of a sector that should now take bold action to help foster a better working world and close the gender gap.

To do this we must start by highlighting some of the many female leaders Wales has recently welcomed to a number of influential roles in the third sector, in a bid to directly encourage more young women to drive change to ensure a better Wales.

Lesley Jones, CEO Keep Wales Tidy and President of the global Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) echoes the need for bold action to deliver Wales’ responsibility of inspiring the next generation of female leaders:

I want to mark International Women’s Day by collaborating with my counterparts in Wales on the 2017 message. Working with the environment and educations sectors in Wales and internationally, I hope to promote the opportunities through education for more young women to be confident and bold in their own spheres of influence. The international Eco-Schools programme we manage here in Wales empowers young people to lead and take action to make the world a better place.

The appointment of Lesley Jones as President of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) needs to be celebrated as this global organisation’s first female appointment and first President from Wales.

This is one of many new and strong female appointments in the third sector showcasing how women in Wales are boldly leading environmental and sustainability work at a local, national and global scale.

Others of note include Ruth Marks, CEO of Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) who recently took over leadership of the national membership organisation for the third sector with over 33,000 members, contributing £1.6 million to the Welsh economy. Previously Ruth’s appointment as the Older People's Commissioner for Wales was a world first and she successfully established this public body from scratch. Ruth echoes Lesley’s ambition for tomorrow’s leaders:

I am inspired by women who give their time to voluntary and charitable activity. The 2017 IWD theme #BeBoldForChange gives a really positive platform to recognise the huge contribution made by women in the sector and to encourage more women to get involved in their local communities.

Auriol Miller, in her new appointment as Director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA), hopes to use her background of international development in three different continents to help steer Wales to a brighter future:

My role ​as Director of the IWA is to identify ​​ideas ​that can help to make Wales flourish ​and to convene ​​partnerships to bring them to life.  We want to build a Wales fit for generations to come,​and in doing so we have a duty to support truly equal opportunities. We must start today and ensure the IWD campaign has a lasting legacy.

In addition, business owner Cerys Furlong’s recent role as Chwarae Teg CEO, will build on her passion for gender equality and social justice to directly work with the women of Wales on this agenda:

With a fast-changing political and economic landscape facing us in Wales, my priority will be to continue the vital work Chwarae Teg does to improve the position of women in the workplace and in wider society, and to further raise the issues of gender equality and social justice within Welsh public life.

We can’t speak of a #BeBoldForChange campaign without mentioning the Women’s Institute, the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK which exists to educate women to enable them to provide an effective role in the community, to expand their horizons, and to develop and pass on important skills. Rhian Connick is currently the Head of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, Wales Office, a Trustee of Glynneath Training Centre and former Trustee of Women Making a Difference & Member of BBC Audience Council. Rhian echoes the campaign message:

The WI has since its inception over 100 years ago, promoted women’s education, offered an insight into democracy in action, and encouraged members to take an active role in public life.  It has tackled a wide range of issues that matter to women and their communities, delivering ground-breaking campaigns, shining a light on taboo issues and supporting members to use their own lives as a start point for delivering change.  Although there is plenty to celebrate, women continue to face real challenges and by working together women can and will bring about change.

With too many other excellent examples to highlight individually, we want to call on our leaders to continue their excellent work and to be even bolder this year. Hashtag #BeBoldForChange and name your inspirational Welsh woman on 8 March.

Context:

  • Betsi Cadwaladr, 1789 - 1860 The famous Welsh nurse treated the wounded during the Crimean War and her contributions were recognised when she became the namesake of the North Wales 'Betsi Cadwaladr' Health Board - the largest health organisation in Wales.
  • Megan Lloyd George made Welsh history in 1929 when she was elected Wales' first ever female MP. She campaigned for women's rights, the underprivileged, and Welsh issues, opening the first ever Welsh Day debate at Westminster in October 1944; and was a WI member!
  • Margaret Haig Mackworth (neé Thomas), 1883 - 1958 was a Welsh peer and active suffragette. She faced barriers to gaining power in the public sphere when she was denied her father's seat in the House of Lords after his death, but continued to fight for women's rights.
  • The Welsh Mam!

These are just a few Welsh women who have made their mark on history.

Diwrnod Rhyngwladol y Menywod 2017: Menywod Rhyngwladol Cymru