Women Who Challenge Stereotypes
Earlier this week we saw people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, a global holiday to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women. Furthermore the day is also a focal point in the women's rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women.
This year’s International Women’s Day campaign settled on the theme: #ChooseToChallenge. The underlying idea being that ‚a challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day’ (as it states on the official homepage). We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. As we all know: From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.
Inspired by this year’s theme of the International Women’s Day, I have chosen five women with a limb difference who I follow on social media. I must admit that unfortunately I only met one of them in person and only had the on and off contact with two others. But my impression is that they regularly choose to challenge themselves as well as the world around them. And as this year’s theme states: From challenge comes change. And change - lasting, positive social change - is something this planet really needs. So enjoy learning more about these amazing women.
Five Women Whose Instagram Accounts Are A Joy To Follow
Let me start with Josephine Bridges: After 11 years of struggling with multiple failed bone recovery surgeries following bone cancer at 17, Josephine Bridges opted for an amputation in October 2018. When making her decision she went on a research drive to discover what would be available for her as an amputee through the NHS (that is the National Health Service in the United Kingdom) and what she discovered dis-heartened her. As an active woman, taking part in a number of outdoor sports, she realized that whilst the NHS options would be able to get her moving they were unlikely to support her hobbies and those that would keep her active weren’t going to be available for a number of years. Keen to keep up her active life Josephine began researching options outside of the NHS; buying a prosthetic from a private company. The legs available to her privately would not only support her hobbies but actually allow her to do even more. Her mind was set and she began fundraising for her prosthetic. It was at this point that Josephine realized there was a gap in available support. There were a number of charities for children and veterans but nothing specifically to support her as a young adult grow her hobbies and her motivation to recover. Now Josephine is walking, running, skiing, climbing and more with her very own prosthetic. After fundraising for her leg, through the incredible kindness of others, she decided that she had to find a way to pay-it-forward, to provide others with the same opportunity she had; to encourage recovery, generate motivation and create inspiration after injury or illness. So she decided to set up Positive Bones. If you want to learn more about Josephine and about Positive Bones, click here.
Next in line is Julia Porzelt: Julia is a young women from Bavaria/Germany who many of you might know from her amazing Instagram feed featuring her and her horses. Julia was born with a congenital disability, is a double below-knee amputee, and very active in her two prosthetic legs. From what I can tell from her social media presence Julia is in full control of her own life, is enjoying new challenges, and is an accomplished competitive horse rider. Her love for horse-back riding goes back to an early age; at the age of four, Julia was introduced to hippotherapy, physiotherapy on and with the horse. But soon her enthusiasm for it faded again. It just seemed back then it wasn’t exciting enough. So it took another six years until she returned to the sport. At the age of ten she started riding therapy and soon upped her game and moved into competitive riding and a regular participant in national and international tournaments. With increased participation in major equestrian events, Julia has her eyes set on the Paralympic games. If you want to learn more about Julia, click here.
And now we come to Jacqueline Fritz: Before we start, let me be honest: Jacqueline and her ambitions and what she enjoys are very close to my heart. Her passion for the mountains and for self-supported long-distance hikes resonates with me. As a teenager Jacqueline had a sport accident. Nothing too worrying, is she thought in the beginning. But things got worse and her fight to finally recover dragged on over seven years. So in her early twenties, Jacqueline’s leg had to be amputated. A world came crushing down for her. But soon she discovered her love for the outdoors and her passion for the mountains. In 2016 Jacqueline took on a 300km hike, crossing the Alps, carrying her own gear on her back. And all that on crutches. Since then she has submitted another 100 peaks. In addition Jacqueline is an accomplished climber and a member of Germany’s national paraclimbing squad. If you want to learn more about Jacqueline and her hiking companion dog Loui, click here.
Next in line is Kirstie Ennis: What can I say: Former Marine Sergeant Kirstie Ennis is a legend. And I am sure you all have heard ab out her. Kirstie aims to climb the Seven Summits; i.e. the highest peaks on each continent. In addition to pushing her own limits, embarking on new adventures, and working on her Seven Summit project, Kirstie is a passionate disability rights advocate. Her own The Kirstie Ennis Foundation aims to inspire individuals to stubbornly climb the mountain in front of them by
providing education, opportunity, and healing in the outdoors. In addition she supports ROMP and others. If you want to learn more about Kirstie, click here.
Last but by no way least: Hope Gordon: I met Hope a few years ago during the Edinburgh stop of the British Paraclimbing Series. By that time the young women form Scotland had already been through a lot. As a teenager, her leg suddenly stopped working; from one day to the next, completely unexpected. For ten years Hope was in severe pain and was soon diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. In order to get back her life, she decided to have her leg amputated. But the National Health Service was not willing to pay for the surgery. So to go ahead with her plan, Hope had to raise £10,000 by herself and did so through a crowdfunding campaign. That was back in 2016, Since then, so she says, she is a new person and her quality of life is back. And you can tell as she lives each and every day to the fullest. Since her amputation, Hope has represented Scotland in swimming and more recently as part of the para-canoeing team. She soon became a force to reckon with on the national as well as the international stage. If you want to learn more about Hope, click here.
Post by Bjoern Eser. Bjoern is the founder of The Active Amputee.