Today is International Women’s Day and a time to encourage collective action for driving gender equality.
The theme is #PressforProgress, a call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
We have been hearing from some of the inspiring women from across the Crystal Palace family who #PressforProgress in their everyday lives and careers.
What was your route into football?
'It wasn’t easy, I actually never got a chance to play with other girls until High School. It was really hard, especially in Uganda where football is a sport that is culturally perceived to be mostly for men. I only used to play with my brother in the compound at home and never got a chance until secondary school to play with other girls. It’s something that hurts me a little because sometimes I wish I had girls to play with in my early stages – if I did maybe I would be really good by now.'
Jean Ssenide, Palace Ladies FC
'During my Primary School years, football was only ever played by the boys in the playground and the girls almost forbidden from getting involved. Going to an all-girls High School you would think there would have been opportunities to play sport or football but it wasn’t really encouraged.'
Madeleine Szwed, Coach and Player at Caterham Pumas FC
'There were no opportunities in my area for girls and women within football until I was introduced to the (Palace for Life) Foundation. I was only able to engage at school until I was referred by my teacher and mentor Mr Gareth Buckley.'
Angel O’Dwyer, Palace for Life Foundation sessional coach and former youth participant
'I graduated from university and wanted to keep dancing and performing as much as I could, so I decided to audition for the Crystals. Joining my local football club has given me the opportunity to not only follow my passion for dance, but also to meet new people who have now become lifelong friends.'
Stacey Greenhead, member of Crystals Cheerleading Squad
'I found it pretty easy as I participated a lot in football at Primary School, although that was mainly with boys. During Secondary School I was able to play more with girls my age and eventually got more opportunities when I played with Millwall.'
Isha Kamara, Palace Ladies FC
How do you aim to inspire girls and women in your everyday life?
'I’m a strong believer in following your dreams and working hard to achieve them and no matter what stage in your life or your circumstances, new achievements are always possible. I often reflect on the last two years where I’ve had to deal with some very personal challenges but yet discovered a love for football (playing and coaching) that I never thought possible. My #PressForProgress is to be a good role model to the younger female generation and to encourage everyone in my life that if you want something badly enough, if you work hard, show courage, strength and determination, you can achieve it and at the same time, it’s ok to be a bit selfish sometimes and put yourself first.' Madeleine
'I want to see women’s football get to greater heights. #PressforProgress is such a good campaign. I have always endeavoured to do my coaching badges so that I can teach lots of girls how to play when they are young – an opportunity I never got. I want to see girls go professional and that’s why I have started the Sseninde Women’s Development Cup in Uganda – to give all girls opportunities to play and grow the number of girls playing football. I also go to various communities in Uganda and encourage girls to get involved in football.' Jean
'I excel not just in college but in everything I do. It’s about having a positive mental attitude. I am the best, I can be in everything I do. Anyone can do anything they put their mind to.' Angel
'For me personally, I associate this with thriving to be better, pushing my boundaries to be the best I can be, and uniting with others to create a better industry in which to collaborate.' Isha
'Where there were a lack of female role models growing up, I would say using my platform to engage with younger girls and building their confidence is important. It is important to identify with them and remove the stereotypes of what girls can and cannot do so that they feel free to aim high.' Stacey.