On 8 March, we hear from incredible women around the world on how to break the bias in arts and culture and how can we challenge stereotypes to break down barriers.

Find out more about these groundbreaking women below.  

Video 1: Equality in the arts industry: do women get heard?

Archana Prasad

Archana is an artist from Bangalore, India whose work combines art, technology and the urban community. In 2018, supported by a grant from the British Council, Archana founded Dara.network, a digital community connecting creators, entrepreneurs and cultural practitioners. Previously, she founded the techart platform BeFantastic as well as Jaaga, a co-working space and residency programme.

Asma Khalifa

Asma is a Libyan activist and researcher whose work spans peacebuilding, conflict transformation and women’s rights. In 2015 she co-founded Tamazight Women’s Movement, a think/do tank advancing gender equality in Libya and North Africa. Asma won the Luxembourg Peace Prize in 2016 and was named one of the 100 most influential young Africans of 2017 by the Africa Youth Awards.

Cheryl Martin

Cheryl is an award-winning performer, director and writer. She is Co-Artistic Director of Manchester’s Black Gold Arts Festival, and was Guest Curator for Liverpool’s Homotopia in 2018, the UK’s largest LGBTQ+ festival. Cheryl has won Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards for both writing and directing. She has also co-produced and directed an Edinburgh Fringe First winner for the Traverse Theatre. 

Dong Mei

Dong Mei is Chief Architect at BCKJ Architects, a Beijing practice she co-founded in 2004. Her work spans urban planning, architecture and interiors, with a focus on cultural heritage, social engagement and the environment. In 2020 BCKJ won the Royal Academy Dorfman Award, a £10,000 prize supported by the British Council that honours emerging talents who represent the future of architecture.

Joelle Taylor

Joelle is an award-winning poet, playwright and author. She has performed across the UK and internationally, for the British Council and on solo projects across Europe. In 2021 she won the TS Eliot Prize for C+nto & Othered Poems, her fourth poetry collection. Joelle founded SLAMbassadors, the UK national youth poetry slam championships, in 2001 and was its Artistic Director until 2018. She is now Commissioning Editor at Out-Spoken Press.

Shailee Basnet

Shailee is the leader of the Seven Summits Women Team, a group of climbers from Nepal that became the first female team to scale the highest mountain in every continent. She now supports young survivors of sex trafficking to become trekking guides. Shailee shares her experiences as a woman climber with audiences around the world, and is also a successful stand-up comedian.

Lourdes González

Lourdes is the Minister of Culture of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Before being appointed to her current role, Lourdes took part in the British Council’s Innovation for Culture Programme. For more than 20 years her work has focused on the field of the arts, in which she has worked as a manager, researcher, producer and creative. She has worked in opera, theatre, radio, performance and other creative disciplines.

Munotida Chinyanga

Munotida is an anti-disciplinary practitioner creating work through direction and sound design. She’s Co-artistic Director of the international arts collective, state of the [art]. She has worked at venues such as The Young Vic, The Gate Theatre, Pleasance Theatre and the North Wall, Oxford.

Video 2: Breaking bias at work: what can women do?

Aysel Abasova

Aysel is an Azerbaijani architect and the Co-founder of Studio Blai, a design company turning Istanbul’s plastic waste into valuable products. In 2021 she won the British Council’s #DestinationZero challenge, which supports young people to develop innovative solutions to climate change. Aysel’s invention recycles single-use plastic waste generated in cities to create food waste composting bins.

Dr Khayriyyah (Kye) Mohd Hanafiah

Kye was crowned FameLab International Champion in 2018, becoming only the second Malaysian to win the title ‘World’s Best Science Communicator’. She now leads the development of a science communication training module and is a regular newspaper columnist, writing about social and scientific developments related to Covid-19. Kye is a Senior Research Officer at the Burnet Institute, Australia, and a lecturer at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Laure Beaufils

Laure is the British Ambassador to the Philippines and Palau. She was Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa of the Department for International Development (DFID) from 2019 to 2021 and the Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria from 2017 to 2019. As the head of DFID in Rwanda, she managed a $100 million portfolio of programmes on economic development, governance and social sectors.

Mary Dinah

Mary is the Founder of the Mary Dinah Foundation, a humanitarian NGO committed to ending hunger. Each year the foundation provides more than eight million meals to women and children in conflict zones globally. Mary also founded Nigeria’s first job centre, supporting over 3,000 young people to improve their employability. Her work has been recognised with several honours, including the British Council’s Social Impact Award.

Sazeda Khatun

Sazeda took part in the British Council’s EDGE programme, which works with girls across South Asia to develop their English language and digital literacy skills and to raise awareness about their rights. She went on to become a peer group leader, running her own community-based clubs for girls aged 13 to 19 in her village in Bangladesh. Sazeda now works as a field facilitator at Dhaka Ahsania Mission, supporting the Bangladesh Sustainable Forest and Livelihood (SUFAL) project.

Stevie Spring CBE

Stevie became Chairman of the British Council in August 2019. She is also Chairman of Mind, the mental health charity; serves on the board of the Co-op Group; and is an investor and adviser to two technology companies. Stevie previously chaired both the Groundwork Federation and BBC Children in Need. She was awarded a CBE in the 2017 Queen’s birthday honours list.

Zaina Erhaim

Zaina is an award-winning journalist. Since 2014 she has trained 100 citizen reporters from inside Syria in print and television journalism. She was previously Communications Manager at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and now works as a communications and gender expert with organisations in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2015 Zaina won the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.