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International Women's YAY!

Phil Bingham 08.03.21

I went for a 35km bike ride last weekend.

Many of you will have done that. For some it will have represented a breakthrough distance. For others it's a gentle warm up. Some people's commute is that long. Everyone is different.

For me it wasn't really my landmark. Zoe the VeloCub had turned 9 two weeks earlier and was determined to ride her record distance.

Granted, we needed a couple of pit stops for jelly beans and - vitally - an Alfonso ice cream at the halfway mark. But the smile on Zoe's face when we got to the top of the final hill spoke volumes.

It was a reminder of so many positives that often get forgotten in this ostensibly messed up world. And International Women's Day is an equally strong reminder of them.

Zoe on her record ride

Positives, you say? What positives? Haven't we been slogging through the misery of the worst pandemic in living memory? Economic collapse beckons for many people and industries, the environment is on the brink, social media is destroying lives, populism is threatening democracy itself, inequalities are entrenched... what is there to be upbeat about?

Well, the next generation, for a start.

We look at our daughters and their friends - boys and girls alike - and see meaningful and lasting values being instilled. These are human beings born in the year of the London Olympics or even more recently - but already viewing things in a more balanced, fair and positive light than many of their forebears.

They play on equal terms in the playground. Differences in skin colour or gender or creed or ability or family structure seem pointless and silly to them. It's not that they're unaware - they just can't be bothered with them. They've got more important things to focus on.

You could say this is the bliss of childhood innocence. You could say that broken homes, societal pressures, marketing ruses and adult temptations will intervene in time.

In some cases, of course they will. Humans are humans. Nothing is perfect. Far from it.

They are hungry to learn and help to change things for the better

 

But what is also impressing us as parents is that so many of the adults involved in young lives - teachers, parents, coaches, grandparents - are doing their all to keep these virtues intact, and reinforce the importance of equality in all senses.

It feels as though with every passing week, the penny drops with more adults. Often this is as a result of their own contact with younger generations - the realisation that leaving a miserable, destitute world for the next generation simply isn't an option. That 20th century habits and attitudes have to improve.

That includes cycling opportunities: better bike lanes and infrastructure; better access to bikes and clothing for cycling; more respect for people riding bikes on the road; more acceptance from those in charge that failing to take cycling seriously as an option both for travel and mental/physical wellbeing is simply no longer viable.

Certainly if our popular Chat Group is any bell weather of adult attitudes, then a willingness to share, help, welcome, empower and encourage is burgeoning. Enlightened and open-minded attitudes towards women's choices and rights abound.

 

From what we can observe as parents, today's nine-year-old's unsullied passion for clean air, fair treatment, decency, morality and kindness stands a better chance than ever of staying the course.

From Greta Thunberg to David Attenborough, Malala Yousafzai to Amanda Gorman, positive role models are visible, active and attractive to impressionable young minds.

Phil riding with Emma (6) and Zoe (9) - Liz shepherding from behind!

When I see Zoe and Emma pedalling their Isla Bikes as though their lives depend on it, it's a glowing reminder of the opportunities that life can give young girls in 2021.

They are being taken seriously, given responsibility and told they are worth something. Education - not just in the classroom, but also in so many ways beyond it - is broader and more available than ever. Yes, home schooling and lockdown have been a huge challenge, but the foundations are strong.

Our girls ride bikes, play football, throw balls and climb trees like older generations of women were rarely encouraged to. In today's diverse and varied society, their friends come from different backgrounds, religions and nationalities.

They are transfixed by nature and the environment, whether via the television or the real world. They are hungry to learn and help to change things for the better. The differences between boys and girls are - at this stage at least - negligible.

Here's hoping that as the years pass, this positive self-worth, abundant opportunity, and kindness to others can continue to flourish.

Let's hope that the adults in their lives can ultimately pass the baton on to young adults who can continue to improve things, rather than fall in to the same traps as previous generations. That they can influence their own lives and those of others in positive, life-affirming ways.

Maybe I'm being naive. But today, on International Women's Day, I have a good feeling about the future for today's young women.

And the impact that will have on everyone and everything.

 

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