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LSBU hosts debate to mark International Women’s Day

LSBU's debate focused on shadism, a form of skin tone prejudice that identifies groups and individuals on the basis of the degree of skin pigmentation
07 March 2014

International Women's Day, celebrated on 8 March, is a global day celebrating the economic, political, personal and aspirational achievements of women past, present and future.

In some countries the day is an official holiday, where men honour the women in their lives with flowers and small gifts such as the Mimosa flower—the official symbol of International Women's Day.

Each year the United Nations declare a theme for International Women's Day, with 'Inspiring Change' selected as the theme for 2014. The theme aims to encourage advocacy for women's advancement everywhere and in every way, and challenge the status quo for women's equality and vigilance, inspiring positive change.

Shadism and the construction of identify for women is a global issue. To this day many cultures perceive those of lighter skin tone as more beautiful while taboos and stigmas surround darker-skinned women. In countries such as India, the sale of skin lightening products was worth £259 million in 2010—and is still growing at a rate of 18 per cent each year.

LSBU's panel debate 'Shadism—Perceived notions on beauty', which took place on 4 March, was opened by LSBU Deputy HR Director Vongai Nyahunzvi, followed by a short documentary introducing the issue of shadism and the impact it has had on five women and a young girl.

"The event was a unique opportunity for higher education to participate, discuss and debate some of the key issues around identity and the strong taboos and stigmas that impact some dark-skinned woman on a global basis from an early age and leading to further inequalities from childhood to adulthood," said Satwant Kaur, Senior OD & EDI Manager at LSBU.

The event featured presentations from three women renowned on the issue of shadism, who shared their thoughts on the issue and how this form of discrimination can be overcome.

Speakers included Dr Yvonne Robinson, Senior Research Fellow at LSBU's Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, Debbie Weekes-Bernard, Head of Research at Runnymede, as well as Dr Jude Smith Rachele, Co-Founder and CEO of Abundant Sun Ltd.