This past year, I was lucky to be asked to help lead an evening with the 4th Tavistock Brownies to help the girls understand what a local council does. We booked the chamber and ran the meeting using all of the protocols of council, with apologies, declarations of interest and electing a chairperson, writes Tavistock town and borough councillor Ursula Mann.

The girls chose the topic for debate - the importance of having clean, accessible toilets in the town centre that were also open later when the Brownies may be running an activity around the town. The Brownie meeting was one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve spent in the council chamber. I loved listening as the Brownies made their points and grew in confidence in that formal council space.

The evening reminded me that representation matters, and that part of my role as a councillor is to show girls and other women that they too can have the confidence and aspiration to speak up and fight for the causes that are important to them.

In turn, I am grateful that I have had encouragement and support from other women councillors who have acted as mentors for me with their leadership and achievements for our local community.

However, there are still places in the world in which women are prevented or discouraged from participating in decision-making. In some places, structural inequalities, patriarchal norms, discriminatory practices, and gender-based violence continue to hinder women’s full participation in politics. Too often, women face harassment, intimidation, and backlash when they dare to speak out or challenge the status quo.

This International Women’s Day, I encourage everyone to continue to build a future where every woman has a seat at the table, every voice is heard, and every contribution is valued.