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'Freedom lies in being bold': Women around the world voice their hopes for 2021

(Reuters) - Monday marks 110 years since a designated annual International Women’s Day was first commemorated.

Started as a way to call attention to the need for equal rights and promote women’s suffrage, this year’s celebration has the theme “Choose to Challenge”.

Here are the voices of women around the world on the challenges they face and the hopes they have, ahead of the historic day.

LILY YAN, SECOND-YEAR UNIVERSITY STUDENT FROM MYANMAR:

“I had wanted school to resume in 2021, because it has been closed since the COVID outbreak in 2020, but now I don’t want to study any more under this military regime. To get rid of this military dictatorship is all we want for 2021.”

HALEY ARCENEAUX, 29, CHILDHOOD CANCER SURVIVOR AND PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT AT ST. JUDE CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL IN MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, CHOSEN TO FLY TO SPACE ON SPACEX’S INSPIRATION4:

“My hope for women in 2021 is to continue looking toward the future.”

MOMOKO NOJO, 22, JAPANESE STUDENT ACTIVIST:

“I want 2021 to be a year where we can have more female leaders, not just in the Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee, but also in companies, politics, and other various areas. I wish for a society where women’s voices will be reflected.”

CAMILLE ANTON, FOUNDER AND CEO OF ROBOTIC ACTIVATIONS, IN MANILA:

“My hope for women this year is that we break more barriers in the fields of science and technology, we encourage the younger generation of women to consider a career in this fast-growing but very male-dominated industry.”

LILY SAGE WEINRIEB, FUNERAL DIRECTOR IN NEW YORK:

“My hope for women in 2021 is that we continue to honour, remember, protect and defend the rights of our sisters … not just our cis-gender sisters, but those of us who are trans, non-binary, and non-gender conforming.”

BINITA SHAH, FASHION GRADUATE AND QUIDDITCH PLAYER IN SYDNEY:

“My hope for women and non-binary folks in 2021 is to try something that scares you, something that you’ve been told that you can’t or shouldn’t do.”

SHI WEN, 36, FITNESS TEACHER IN BEIJING:

“My hope for 2021 is that my family members are healthy and the studio I run can survive the difficult times. I also wish for the girls from my classes, from before and now, can overcome all difficulties in life, all the best!”

FIDELIA FRANCO, 49, ARTIST FROM PERU’S SHIPIBO-KONIBO TRIBE:

“My hope for 2021 is that we are recognised as indigenous women, the same as we are in our own culture, and that violence against women decreases.”

ZUHAL BAYAT, MEMBER OF AFGHAN NATIONAL BOWLING TEAM:

“As an Afghan athlete, my wish for women in 2021 is that our rights won’t be violated, and we won’t suffer any violence.”

SUNETHRA BANDARANAIKE, DAUGHTER OF WORLD’S FIRST FEMALE PRIME MINISTER SIRIMAVO BANDARANAIKE:

“Sri Lanka elected the world’s first woman prime minister. However, six decades later, women have only 5% representation in our parliament. I wish to see in the future many more women in positions of decision-making in government and in the corporate sectors.”

PHAN THI HIEN, FLORIST IN HANOI:

“I have been a florist for 20 years. My wish for the year 2021 is that the world can eradicate the coronavirus, and that on the coming 8th of March, all the women receive the most beautiful flowers from their lovers.”

A screengrab shows a collage of women's faces from around the world. via REUTERS TV

KIMIA ALIZADEH, 22, IRANIAN TAEKWONDO ATHLETE:

“I want to be an Olympic champion.”

KRISTEN CHOONG, HAWKER AND OWNER OF JI JI NOODLE HOUSE IN SINGAPORE:

“My hope for women in 2021 is that women will get more protection and recognition.”

KRISHNA KUMARI BOHORA, 65, SHOPKEEPER IN KATHMANDU:

“I own this small shop and work hard for my living. I couldn’t study as there was no education during those times. I hope today’s daughters study well. I hope they get a good education so that they can have a good life and not have to face hardships in life.”

PIYAPHORN PROMCHAN, BANGKOK OFFICE WORKER:

“In 2021, I want to see an even sidewalk and electrical wires untangled and underground, as soon as possible. Right now, my heels have all worn out.”

RATHIRUBA SELVARAJU, DOCTOR AT KUALA LUMPUR HOSPITAL:

“I’m one of the coordinators for the COVID-19 vaccination programme. My wish and hope for all the women in 2021, especially the front-liners currently fighting the pandemic, is to be stronger, and continue fighting for your family and the nation. Take care.”

FRIDA GUERRERA, ACTIVIST AND JOURNALIST IN MEXICO CITY:

“I am a defender of women, girls and boys in Mexico, I record femicides across the country. For March 8, I want justice, equity for women, and above all else, stop killing us.”

LULU MALINTAN, 27, MOTORCYCLE TAXI DRIVER IN JAKARTA:

I have been a motorcycle taxi driver for two years and am a housewife with two children. My hope for women in 2021: do not feel inferior about being a woman. Now all possibilities are wide open, especially online with information from around the world.”

ANEELA MOHAMMAD ASLAM ANEELA, ROLLERBLADING POLICEWOMAN IN KARACHI:

“Freedom lies in being bold. I hope year 2021 will be a year of women’s freedom.”

LANA ABU HIJLEH, 57, COUNTRY DIRECTOR AT DEVELOPMENT AND AID ORGANISATION LOCAL COMMUNITIES PALESTINE:

“I wish all the women of the world, the Arab women and the Palestinian women, freedom in decision-making, justice, equity and equality for all, and many happy returns.”

KIM YEON-HEE, 23, SOUTH KOREAN SOFTWARE ENGINEER:

“In 2021, we hope cybercrimes targeting celebrities and women such as deepfake (videos) will be stamped out.”

KATERYNA MONZUL, UKRAINIAN SOCCER REFEREE:

“I wish all women to be loved and happy in 2021. I wish them to have as many bright and unforgettable moments as possible.”

KOUAKOU MAZAN, 21, FISHERWOMAN IN PORT BOUET, ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST:

“My wish in 2021 is that men respect women at work.”

YOGITA BHAYANA, WOMEN’S RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER IN NEW DELHI:

“I run a campaign called PARI, People Against Rapes in India. Our country, our streets should be safer for our women, for our children, and in 2021, we should see no cases of sexual violence and all the perpetrators of previous cases should be punished.”

MARINE MAIORANO DELMAS, 35, ASSISTANT AT SEX SHOP AND MODEL IN PARIS:

“In 2021, what I hope for women and minorities, is for their voices to be heard at last. Violence against women has always been considered a lesser crime, and I hope that will finally change.”

ZEINA IBRAHIM, ACTIVIST AND FOUNDER OF PROTECTING LEBANESE WOMEN CAMPAIGN:

“For me as a mother, a member of this campaign, and as a part of this community whose laws are unjust towards women and children on a daily basis, International Women’s Day will not be complete and I will not be able to celebrate it without the rights of these women and children.”

ANA LAURA GONZALEZ, INTENSIVE CARE DOCTOR AT SAN MARTIN HOSPITAL IN LA PLATA, ARGENTINA:

“My wish for 2021 is that there is equity and equality for all women when it comes to professional positions, the same as men.”

YASMIN SAIKA PASHA, ADDITIONAL DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF BANGLADESH POLICE:

“I call upon all the women across the world to be confident, be strong, and charge forward.”

TALI FRIEDMAN, CHEF AND OWNER OF CULINARY SCHOOL IN JERUSALEM:

“I wish women around the world in 2021 to come out and dare to be successful and dream big. I think that our capabilities, not only equal men’s capabilities around the world, but can also exceed them. Go out there, dare and be successful.”

SERENA TSUI PUI-HAN, 24, FOUNDER OF SKINCARE BRAND SERENIA HK:

“I hope every Hong Kong woman can appreciate their unique beauty. No matter how busy and stressful life can be, we have to take good care of our body and soul. Let’s love and treat ourselves more, you got this!”

SAHAR ALBAZAR, EGYPTIAN PARLIAMENTARIAN:

“My hope for women across the globe is that the year of 2021 is the year of women’s empowerment, for us to see her in leading positions across all sectors - the government sector and the private sector.”

MARTA LEMAPRT, FOUNDER OF ALL POLAND WOMEN’S STRIKE MOVEMENT:

“We fight for women’s rights, for human rights, for democracy, for the rule of law. We live in a country ruled by the government that hates women. I hope that in 2021, we and women all over the world will come to realise that there are more of us, more than police, more than soldiers, more than government officials, regimes and dictators, more than all those who hate women, and that this is why we will win.”

MERCEDES QUISPE, BUS DRIVER IN LA PAZ:

“I am an Aymara woman and I am very proud of my traditional dress. I represent my entire family, my mother and my sisters, and my hope for 2021 is that there is an end to the humiliation, discrimination and mistreatment of all women.”

SEYRAN ATES, GERMAN LAWYER, AUTHOR AND MOSQUE FOUNDER , SAYING:

“In 2021 I wish for all women in this world to lead a free, self-determined life.”

SANDRA SANCHEZ, 39, KARATE EXPERT AND OLYMPIAN:

“What I hope for all women in 2021 is personal growth, to grow and be socially acknowledged and to be united across the world.”

Compiled by Phyllis Xu; Editing by Karishma Singh and Gerry Doyle

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