Trigger Warning: Contains some disturbing material
“It doesn’t really affect me.”
“I’m too tired from work to think about those issues”.
“I’ve got problems of my own”.
These are just some of the excuses I hear from people I talk to as to why gender inequality- actually any inequality, is not a priority to them.
We hear about rape in India; female genital mutilation; human trafficking and the sex trade. We are all horrified for a moment, but then the moment is gone. We go back to our daily lives in which we are not affected by these issues, are too tired for them, or are bogged down by our own problems.
I get it. Life is hard. You’re worried about your job. Your mum was diagnosed with cancer. You have ongoing sickness. Your partner left you. We all face our own battles every day. Trust me, I certainly do.
But you know the best way to get your mind off your own problems? Go out and help someone with theirs. Believe me it will really put things in perspective because there is always someone who is worse off than you are.
Baby girls are being denied food, suffocated or have their spines broken- just because they are girls.
Young girls and women are having their vaginas cut and mutilated for the sake of their sexual purity and so-called “honour”.
A leading cause of death amongst women aged 14-44 is violence from relatives in their own homes.
Still think you have problems?
Listen, I’m not belittling your life. But here’s another way to put it. Speaking at the Women of the World festival in London this month, that I had the privilege of attending, Annie Lennox said this:
“I am resourced. I am educated, I have the right to vote, I have access to medical healthcare. WE must open doors for others who don’t have the rights that we take for granted.”
It is up to us. And it is your, my, our, problem.
Because the truth is that inequality is everywhere- it would be naiive to think it doesn’t affect you.
Do you have non-English name, or coloured skin? Are you an immigrant or the child of one? Do you have a vagina? Do you have children? Are you gay? Are you disabled or long-term sick? Are you on the minimum wage? Are you a blue-collar worker? Any one of these means you will face discrimination in your lifetime at some point- and yes, more than one means you face twice the discrimination. There are power structures in place which mean that most of us will experience discrimination and disadvantage. And that should make you angry. It makes me so angry!
But what makes me the angriest is gender-based discrimination. Because I am a woman, I get treated like a second-class citizen? Really? Sadly misogyny and violence against women is worse than ever before in some parts of the world. Sexism is rampant in public and private life. And don’t even get me started on how South Asian women- women like me, both in the UK and abroad are some of the most oppressed, most beaten, most raped, most tortured women in world; denied access to any of the freedoms we take for granted like healthcare and education, or just the simple freedom to make their own choices.
Ten years ago at the UN World Conference for Women in Beijing, Hilary Clinton gave a now famous speech in which she said “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights”.
So much of what she said was ahead of its time. It’s only now that we are really waking up to the truth of what women face globally. Technology and the instant spread of information have aided that.
So what can we do? Well start by reading up on“India’s Daughter” (you can no longer download it). But you can download Wednesday night’s “Hilary Clinton: The Power of Women”, and listen to Hilary’s original speech in the clip above. Get on Twitter and see what’s trending. Listen to a TED talk. Just get in the conversation and for God’s sake get a conscience.
Social justice isn’t just for angry bloggers like me, it’s everyone’s responsibility. We need to actually give a damn about someone other than ourselves.