IT was the year that women fought for freedom, made huge strides in science and brought football home.
But it was also the year that we said goodbye to our unique monarch, one of the most powerful matriarchs in history.
It was also the year the Lionesses brought football home[/caption]
There is no question that 2022 was dominated by the death of our wonderful Queen.
Over her 70-year reign, Elizabeth’s calm, wise leadership kept Britain on an even keel and shored up our place in the world order. She was a legend who put duty above all, even her own family, right to the very end.
And yet, while QEII was clearly the woman of not just last year, but EVERY year, 2022 had no shortage of inspirational female role models.
Two in particular stepped up at a time of national mourning and hit the royal ground running.
Like many, I had my doubts about Camilla, but over the years her passion for important causes, her unstuffy approach and her twinkly good humour have won me over.
And she didn’t mince her words, warning of a “global pandemic of violence against women” and calling for an end to these “heinous crimes”.
The Royal Family can also take heart from a great start by our new Princess of Wales.
Kate dedicated her Together At Christmas carol service to the late Queen, ignoring the incessant whining from the Netflix branch of the family to celebrate Her Majesty’s values of “kindness, compassion and support for others”.
How different to her self- obsessed sister-in-law Meghan, still cashing in on old grievances and flogging her sense of victimhood for all it is worth . . . about 100million dollars at the last count.
Clearly, 2023 is going to be a big year for Kate as she settles into the shoes which proved so uncomfortable for Princess Diana.
But watching her shepherding her lively youngsters through the challenges of the Sandringham Christmas Day walkabout, I felt the future of the Royal Family was secure.
She is a credit to William, but never tries to upstage him, and her relaxed parenting skills have produced what looks like three extremely balanced and happy children.
Kate is a credit to William, but never tries to upstage him[/caption]
And how about the ferocious work ethic of Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert?
If anyone could afford to rest on their laurels, it’s the architect of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. After the pandemic struck, her team was ready to start clinical trials in just 65 days.
Job done, you might think. Not a bit of it. This past year Prof Gilbert has been busy targeting the “priority pathogens” out there — known diseases that could be the pandemics of the future.
They include: Mers (which is another coronavirus), Lassa, Ebola, dengue fever and plague. Vaccines against them would save many thousands of lives and the professor and her team are on the case. What a brilliantly inspiring woman.
Of course, last year also delivered a whole football team of inspirational women in the shape of England’s Lionesses.
No wonder that, together with Lionesses captain Leah Williamson, she recently topped a list of female role models.
And this year we have the Women’s World Cup to look forward to, a chance for our team to actually, finally, bring it home.
But some of that credit has to go to England manager Sarina Wiegman. The Lionesses have not lost a single game since she took charge in September 2021.
Sarina bravely focuses more on playing well and team spirit than winning. She said recently: “Of course we want to break all the records, but breaking a record doesn’t say what you have to do . . . How do we stick together as a team?
“I believe that’s where it starts. At the moment, it works really well and they feel really comfortable. You can tell because we are enjoying ourselves — and winning helps.”
A different brand of courage was demonstrated by the indomitable Olena Zelenska[/caption]
Perhaps we should all take a leaf out of Sarina’s book.
Yet rather than cower in a bunker with her children, she has been touring the world raising support for Ukraine’s battle for survival, while boosting morale at home.
Another woman who refused to cower, this time in the face of death, was the unbelievably brave Dame Deborah James, who passed away aged 40 in June, five years after she had been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer.
While battling a disease with distressing, embarrassing symptoms that most of us would want to keep to ourselves, she used her skills as a broadcaster to put it all out there, raising awareness and giving other patients the chance of life she never had.
Equally inspirational in her own way was Nazanin Zaghari- Ratcliffe, who endured six years in an Iranian prison for the “crime” of being a handy political pawn in the loathsome regime’s power plays with the British Government.
I was reminded of her ordeal when I heard her telling tennis ace Andy Murray how watching him win Wimbledon in 2016, while in solitary confinement at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, gave her joy in her darkest hours.
Freed in March 2022, she continues to campaign against the regime’s vicious crackdown on female rights.
The plight of Iran’s young protesters against strict religious rules, and of the girls of Afghanistan, now denied all but the most basic of education, show clearly that progress can never be taken for granted.
Even in the liberal West, it is still not an easy time to be young and female.
My pick for a role model is Grammy-winning singer Billie Eilish[/caption]
We need role models more than ever right now, and my pick is Grammy-winning singer Billie Eilish. She not only uses music to push boundaries — as with her single Your Power, calling out abusers who exploit underage girls, or All The Good Girls Go To Hell, a song about climate change.
Last year, as Glastonbury’s youngest ever solo headliner at age 20, she used the platform to protest against the US Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to abortion.
I have no doubt 2023 will bring us a fresh crop of inspirational women, and I just hope that I will be fortunate enough to write about more of them.
Meanwhile I’ll quote my favourite T-shirt slogan: “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”