Global News | Mar 21, 2022

Celebrating the Women who inspire us International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, our Beauty in Colour ARG have been sharing the stories of women from past and present who have helped to stand up against racial discrimination as part of this year’s theme “Voices for Action Against Racism”.

Did you know, this International Day is observed annually on the day the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid in 1960? 19 years later, the UN General Assembly decided that all member states would hold a week of solidarity with the peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination from 21 March.

Since then, much progress has taken place - the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled, racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, yet there is still work too do with many individuals, communities and societies suffering injustice and racisms.

Read the nominations from the ARG to gain a snapshot into how these women of colour have faced challenges that inspire us all today to end inequality and discrimination.

Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

As a South African, the 21st of March is recognised on our calendar as Human Rights Day. As the Avon family recognises the same day as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the late veteran anti-apartheid activist and former wife to the late Nelson Mandela comes to mind. Mama Winnie was a key figure in the anti-apartheid movement, she fought for women, children and youths, she spoke out boldly and fearlessly against the apartheid government. She became successful in this, as she and many other women-comrades carried the heavy weight of husbands and comrades in jail or in exile. Today we are liberated and enjoy equal rights - a heroine like her should always be remembered.

"If you are to free yourselves you must break the chains of oppression yourselves. Only then can we express our dignity, only when we have liberated ourselves can we co-operate with other groups. Any acceptance of humiliation, indignity or insult is acceptance of inferiority." Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Nominated by Kolosa Vuso

Claudia Jones

Claudia dedicated her life to fighting inequality and oppression. Born in Trinidad, growing up in New York then moving to London, she is best known for launching the Notting Hill Carnival, which celebrates the beauty of West Indian culture. She also founded the West Indian Gazette to fight for equal opportunities for black people in the UK. Her legacy lives on strong every year during Carnival!

“A people’s art is the genesis of their freedom”

Nominated by Sabina Morgan-Richards


Michelle Obama

If you have read the biography of the first African American 'First Lady' you will know Michelle Obama faced a lot of discrimination growing up and throughout her life. From her teachers saying she could not get into Princeton and not to 'set her goals too high', to the media scrutiny when she was First Lady with them focusing on what she wore rather than what she did or said. Obama is a true inspiration and has broken down many barriers in society and done so much for women and girls in general.

“I am coming down from the mountaintop to tell every young person that is poor and working class, and has been told regardless of the color of your skin that you don't belong, don't listen to them. They don't even know how they got at those seats.”

Nominated by J a tinder Panesar


K'iche’ (Quiche) Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Rigoberta won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her activism for the rights of indigenous people in Guatemala. As the granddaughter of indigenous Mayans, her fight against the repression of her people by the government and later, her role in seeking peaceful solution to conflict through learning and empathy really resonates with me.

“The world is not going to change, unless we change ourselves” Rigoberta Menchú

Nominated by Sabina Morgan-Richards



Rhianna has motivated so many young women around the world to go further in life. She is talented and inspiring because of her resilience and inclusion of others. She uses her platform to promote positive messages and has vowed to fight against "racial inequality, injustice, and straight up racism" She strives for people of colour to be seen and feel confident and that is evident in her beauty range. For me, she reinforces the importance of inclusivity and D&I within the beauty industry and particularly Avon to make this an accessible brand for all.

“I created this line for everyone: for women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures, and races. I wanted everyone to feel included.”

Nominated by Selina Kaylan


Pat McGrath

Vogue‘s Anna Wintour famously heralded Pat McGrath “the most influential makeup artist in the world”. Born in Northampton, UK, Pat was the first black woman to not only navigate a white dominated industry of make up artistry and high-end fashion, she reached the very top and still leads today, creating looks for the fashion and beauty industry and for countless luxury brands and mass market. For me living and working in Northampton, she inspires me in my day to day work to be inclusive in all we do as a beauty brand that is truly for all.

“The most extraordinary results occur only when one feels unbound by any notion of constraint or limitation.”

Nominated by Lauren Payne