I was only about eight or nine years old when I decided our family needed a rota to ensure all dishwashing duties were shared equally. Sundays were the catalyst.

So much more preparation went into the dinner on Sundays and in a scene repeated in countless homes around the country, I’d see my mum in the kitchen for most of the afternoon only to return after dinner to clean everything up again.

That was a few hours before the ironing board would come out to get school uniforms ready for the week ahead.

I didn’t know much about gender inequality at the time; it just didn’t seem fair to me. Thankfully great strides have been made in women’s rights over the last 25-30 years.

The picture I painted is a less familiar one today.

International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8, is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the incredible social, cultural, political and economic achievements of women; both those who’ve gone before us and those working in the present, whether they are on the world stage or in our daily lives.

It’s a day when women – and men – have the opportunity to stop and consider all the positive contributions that women have made in society, to say: look at what women have achieved despite hardship, despite societal and cultural structures and rules that told us we couldn’t.

That kind of awareness and reflection can then be used as a catalyst to continue the work to inspire and empower women, and ultimately to improve the world we live in and make it a more equal place for our children to grow up in.

Alongside the celebrations of women’s achievements, it would be naïve to ignore the work still to be done to create a world free from inequality.

Despite many improvements it is still a man’s world and misogyny is rife. International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to assess and speak up about the areas that need action. I’m passionate about International Women’s Day because I am a feminist and I believe women are incredibly strong and able but many live lives where they are not in control of their own bodies, face sexual harassment and work in environments where they are disadvantaged because of their gender.

It’s not too much to ask to live in a world in which there’s parity between women and men, where women and girls are protected against physical and sexual violence and where girls and boys are offered equal access to education. I wish for my daughter to grow up confident that her characteristics and work ethic are valued and remunerated in the exact same way as her male counterparts, and that having a family (if she chooses to) will not hurt her earnings.

Joining in with the celebration of women is a beautiful thing. But that’s the easy part and if we are to continue the work in improving women’s lives, there are many small, positive steps we can all take to make a difference. Supporting women in their choices is one of the most important steps we can take. Also significant is educating the future generation, our children.

As necessary as it is to support and teach our girls that they are worthy and deserve equal opportunities in life, whilst highlighting the current imbalances, we must also change the narrative towards boys and give them an alternative to the male, macho ‘man up’ stereotype that has pervaded society. That change begins in the home and is essential in schools, too.

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is Balance for Better. The call to action for driving gender balance builds on the notion that equality is not only right and just, it is also better for economically successful society.

Improving the lives of women and seeking equality is not about women’s exclusivity or any desire to become the most powerful or indeed the dominant gender. It is fighting for our right to be equal, for the chance to have a fair and balanced society, in the home, the classroom and the boardroom.