The International Women's Day 2019 campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world.
To celebrate, we’re highlighting students, staff and alumni at the University of Southampton who are 'superheroes in plain sight' for sharing their experiences and contributions to championing the call for gender balance in all aspects of life.
Law student Avila Chidume is using her unique greeting cards to inform and inspire.
Southampton Law student, Avila Chidume, is hoping to overcome stereotypes and change the world’s perceptions – one greeting card at a time.
Avila has created her own range of cards, marketed online under her brand ‘Avila Diana’ and featuring her own original artwork, depicting marginalised groups including those with disabilities, identifying as LGBT+, ethnic minorities or problems with mental health. Her philosophy is simple – change society’s narrative from what it is now because what is happening right now is unacceptable.
How important is gender balance to you, particularly in your passion for human rights as well as referencing your greeting cards?
From a very young age, I have had powerful women to look up and aspire to be like. From my mother, aunts and even friends, the women we let into our lives greatly influence our perception of the world. The women in my life have influenced me to demand better for myself and achieve/accomplish whatever dreams I have, hence why I had the confidence to launch my greeting card company Avila.Diana.
I believe that gender balance is the main solution to solving a lot of the world’s issues. No one benefits from gender imbalance caused by oppressive structures which prevent qualified or skilled people from performing important tasks because of their gender. To simply have male dominated institutions is not representative of the world we live in. There is strength in diversity, in allowing everyone at the table to share their experiences and learn from them. Without female leaders, we would not have half the rights awarded to both women and men. Female leaders continue to prove time and time again that they are just as capable as their male counterparts, they are capable of identifying and tackling issues which may be disregarded generally but greatly impact half the world’s population. They are the reason that girls and women, such as myself, are capable of receiving education and going onto to become business owners or lawyers because they have fought and continue to fight for our rights to live as we want to.
In your experience, what barriers and/or successes could you highlight where gender balance has been particularly instrumental in making a positive change or where gender balance is still a major problem?
My personal experiences have generally been very positive with regards to gender balance, I cannot think of many times when I was denied something because I am a woman. These are the types of experiences/stories I wish all women could share, however that is not the case.
The reason why I am studying law is that from a young age I have been aware of the global issue of gender discrimination. I have read about Malala Yousafzai’s story, social injustices faced by trans-women, women’s homicide statistics, and stories about women who were never able to fulfill their dreams because of patriarchal notions which belittle women.
I aspire to change the narrative on who women are through my business. One card which I have depicts a black woman about to take an anti-depressant, this is not a common image to see given the stigma of mental health in the black community and the ‘strong black woman’ stereotype which is overplayed in the media. I believe that a lot of institutions and organizations are beginning to see the value in gender balance but the only way they are to have any positive impact is by bringing diversity to their boardrooms and allowing oppressed voices to speak up on their experiences.
If you were to turn into a superhero overnight, what special powers would you hope to inherit and how would you use them (more personal answer than the super power highlighted in the film of you in the studio – any super power you choose!)?
A cool superpower to have would be to manipulate time, so I have more hours in the day to do university assignments and card designs!
Notes for editors
Click here to discover more extraordinary #UoSWomen.