Celebrating International Women’s Day

ACTO Directors nominate women who have inspired them in their lives

Today 8 March is International Women’s Day and is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

This year the United Nations is marking the day with a theme titled DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality. The objective is to highlight how technology is crucial to advancing rights and the impacts of a growing digital gender gap.

We asked two ACTO directors to tell us about some of the women who have inspired them in their lives.

Mieke Haveman, ACTO’s webmaster:

“There are several women who have inspired me throughout my life. The first is my grandmother, and the second is Aletta Jacobs. Aletta was a Dutch doctor who fought for the right for women to vote in the Netherlands over a century ago.

“Another inspirational woman is Maya Angelou.

“After secondary school I went to Teacher Trainer’s college. We had some American teachers there and I will never forget the first trimester were we were introduced to US literature. A particular favourite was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I was blown away by the courage and the willpower of Maya. From very poor beginnings she worked herself up to be the woman who read the poem at President Clinton’s inauguration. I remember watching that with awe as well. She has always stood up for not only black women, but as I saw it for women in general. She used compassion and the power of words to make a difference in the world.”

Kiren Sweetman, ACTO director:

“My niece is an amazing woman who has a passion for wildlife and the planet.  She is amazing really – she needs very little and expects even less.  She thinks about the impact the decisions she makes might have on the world and is an example to me of how to live a life that is gentle and sustainable.

“I find it difficult to choose between two of my favourite actresses, both named Hepburn.  Katherine for her strength and independence, and Audrey for her grace and kindness – all qualities that I find inspiring in women.

“My friend had a stroke in her 20’s, leaving her left side weak.  She walks with callipers, and does not have the use of her left hand.  She sometimes gets muddled and has frequent headaches.  She has survived breast cancer twice.  Yet she will drop everything to help me if ever I am in need.  This, to me, is true female friendship – no judgment, just support and love as we help one another through life’s peaks and troughs, and share the joy and the in-between ‘nothing’ moments with one another.”

For more information about International Women’s Day go to

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