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International Women’s Day: RAMFEL’s Rita Chadha on women’s ongoing struggle

Rita Chadha, from Ramfel receiving bags of donations for the Ilford Redcorder's campaign. Rita Chadha, from Ramfel receiving bags of donations for the Ilford Redcorder's campaign.

Saturday, March 8, 2014
11:00 AM

To mark International Women’s Day, we talked to some of the most influential women in Redbridge and asked what challenges they have overcome and what women still have to face.

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International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is observed around the world on March 8 every year with thousands of events to inspire and help women.

Although the celebration started in America during the early 1900s while women campaigned for the right to vote, as well as better working rights, it spread quickly and has become a national holiday in some countries.

In some places, men honour their mothers and loved ones with gifts and women are given the day off work.

In the UK, the focus tends to be celebrating women’s achievements and campaigning for equality.

Equal pay, the “glass ceiling”, domestic violence, sexual health and discrimination are topics for conferences, activities and events.

It is also an opportunity to raise money for charities supporting women’s issues.

Organisers say they want to “make every day International Women’s Day”.

Visit internationalwomensday.com for more information.

From working in a women’s refuge to housing homeless families, Rita Chadha has seen the hardship many face first-hand.

As chief executive of Ilford-based charity Ramfel (The Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London), she has become a spokesman for the rights of immigrants.

She started out in the voluntary sector aged 14 and has seen “shocking” violence and discrimination against women, adding that men are literally in control of many women she helps, from pimps in Ilford Lane to asylum seekers.

She said: “Sometimes men control the whole situation – they have the money, they know where their passports are. There was one woman whose husband would literally speak for her when they came in.”

But she has seen prejudice within organisations too.

Rita, 41, said: “There are a lot of women in the voluntary sector but not when you get to chief executive level. I’ve always worked in places where I’m the minority, either for my gender or my race.

“You’re noticed and either people cut you a lot of slack or you become a voyeuristic curiosity.”

She said that although equality in the workplace has come a long way, she has felt barred from some jobs and opportunities.

“The change needs to be more psychological than institutional. There are still a lot of assumptions about a female candidate when they go for an interview.”

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