Everyday sexism - don’t (just) get angry…get active
A feminist’s work is never done – especially a feminist on twitter. Every time I log on, my twitter feed is full of tweets from the fabulous Everyday Sexism Project which collates stories of sexism. The stories outrage rather than shock me given their depressing familiarity to most women, including myself. It does however remind, upset and anger me (as the colleagues who sit close by and are party to the ranting can attest) of how many women I know and who’ve I’ve met who have experienced some form of gender-based violence. This unfortunately is also not surprising given that 1 in 5 women (aged 16 - 59) has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.
Globally, that figure increases to at least one woman in every three who has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
I have worked on campaigns to end violence against women since my first day at Amnesty (nearly 8 years ago…and every year the fire in my belly gets stronger) from lobbying for the UK government to protect victims of trafficking, pushing for all women in the UK to have access to a place of safety from violence, no matter their immigration status to ensuring the newly launched Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative includes protection and support for women human rights defenders.
One of the ways our team tries to persuade the UK government to protect and support women’s right is by submitting evidence to Parliamentary Select Committees. Their job is to scrutinise the work of government departments. Our job is to provide them with the evidence to support our human rights recommendations and then persuade both the Committee and the UK government take them up.
So I was dead chuffed this morning when the emailed pinged in from the International Development Select Committee with their report on Violence against Women and Girls. It said that “ending violence against women and girls is the litmus test for whether ‘development’ is working in poor countries such as Afghanistan”
I could not put it better myself…(though I am pretty sure we put something similar in our recommendations to the Committee, which is always pleasing).
It is not just Committees however who have the power to influence the UK government to do more on women’s rights, it is also you through your MPs. One thing that has become clear from my (nearly) eight years of lobbying the UK government and that is the massive impact your letters to MPs have had on UK government policy.
With your help we successfully persuaded Secretary of State Justine Greening to announce that violence against women and girls will be a priority in the next Department for International Development Operational Plan on Afghanistan (also welcomed in the report). But at such a critical time in the future of Afghanistan, as international forces prepare to leave the country next year, there is a real risk that instability and conflict could increase. Only this week Joseph Dunford, the US General who will oversee the end of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, said that “without support…the gains that have been made in democracy and women's rights could be reversed”.
More than ever we must stand with Afghan women and demand an end to the epidemic of violence they face. So if like me you are tired hearing stories of women’s human rights being abused and don’t know what to do about it…why not give it a go. Why not write to your MP. Ask them to urge the UK Government to make a real change to the lives of women by also committing to support practical steps to tackle the abuse – such as supporting women’s shelters or facilitating specially trained domestic abuse representatives in the police force
I was struck by a quote from a TED talk called Violence against women—it's a men's issue that I watched yesterday... In the end what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends
So all of us need to stand up together and be heard. We need to say enough is enough and loud. Our call to end to violence against women across the globe needs to be heard from every roof top, including Westminster. We all need to use the fire in our bellies to fan the flames of justice; don’t (just) get angry…get active.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.