This day celebrates a proud history of women’s battle for rights stretching back more than 100 years. From the pioneering vision of Clara Zetkin in 1910 when the idea of “A Women’s Day” to press for women’s rights was first launched, through the heroic Pankhurst Suffragettes, to the women leaders who have emerged around the world in all aspects of life today.  But this day is also more, much more, than that.

To me, this day is an opportunity to voice a message to all women who are yearning to be heard but feel somehow unable to do so, whether by language ability, educational opportunity, powerlessness or any other perceived barrier. I am here to tell you there are no limits to your right to be a voice for change, you can make the world a better place for the less fortunate.     

Let me tell you a story. I was recently crowned Miss Australia International, 2020, in the Australian International Pageant. An unbelievable honour. Unbelievable because my English is less than perfect, I am traditionally a shy girl, I had no network of promoters to push me forward and I am from China, where the little understood coronavirus had just emerged and us Chinese Australians were being blamed by some quarters of the community for its spread.

But I had a dream – a passionate belief that every child deserved a childhood and I was becoming involved in a charity wanting to raise awareness to the plight of young girls who are, even today, being trafficked into the sex industry, some as young as five years of age, and whose future is grim unless rescued.  In this pageant I found a group of amazing women who shared similar dreams and together we are finding a powerful voice and support for each other as we promote our various causes.

A panel of international judges decided that my rather unpolished self, promoting a vision for change was worth their time supporting and believing in.  So my message to all women on this International Women’s Day is this: do not be deterred by what you think are your limitations. Celebrate them instead. Use them to inspire others that anything is possible if you have a dream and are willing to put yourself “out there” as a leader for your cause. You will, as I found in this pageant, find support in even unlikely places that will lift you beyond what you can possibly imagine. Now I am the Ambassador for this charity, The Sunlight Foundation, and have travelled to see first-hand the grinding poverty and the children rescued from this evil trade, and seeing their lives being restored.  I know I can make a difference.

Many from a younger generation may feel that most battles have been won for women.  They are wrong, the ingrained complexity of patriarchy still rules in many areas of society even with more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased visibility for women as impressive role models in our lives.  Women are still not paid the same as their male peers, women still are not represented in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally, women’s education, health and the violence against us is worse than that of men. Women such as sex workers find themselves stereotyped because of the occupation they choose. Young girls are still sold to paedophiles and die.

My own vision for a world free of the trafficking of young girls for sex is possible and now I have a bigger voice to promote change. Remember, we do have female astronauts and prime ministers, even Presidents. Women can work and have a family, women have real choices. Each year this day inspires women and celebrates their achievements.

Today, there is a mass of diverse local activity connecting women from all around the world, ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatrical performances, fashion parades and pageants like the one I am proud to represent.

So, make a difference. Make every day International Women’s Day. Stand up and speak out to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding. There is still much to be done. 

Please “Follow Me” on Facebook to help give a voice to The Sunlight Foundation and our fight for children trafficked into the evil sex trade.