I’ve been in the international development sphere for the past 10 years now having worked with people living in poverty in developing countries to empower themselves to rise out of poverty. I’ve always known that this endeavour is far beyond a day to day vocation for me, it’s a calling and one which I take very seriously. I’ve spoken in the past about my lifestyle choice being to live this existence attempting to empower and after 10+ years of this work I’ve grown anything but tired of it. As time has gone on, I’ve increased my commitment past that of simply applying my time to the cause of eradicating poverty. Working in the disability sector, with a heightened focus on marginalised women I’ve come to understand that the power of raising my voice is much more potent than I ever could have imagined.
The HerStory campaign is the complete embodiment of this ideal. In a world in which silence or tacit complicity are the usual response to injustice, I more than ever understand the importance of doing the exact opposite. Working in this field I see so many hideous things and lately I’ve been more open and honest about the trauma in which I’ve absorbed subconsciously through my field visits. Seeing the evidence of so much discrimination and indignity in which so many women around the world are subjected to has not been lost on me. I’ve heard so many tales of loss, pain and hardship that comes with deeply entrenched poverty that sometimes it’s easy to forget how much of an impact it has had on my psyche. What I have learnt however is that far from letting this push me into a state of helplessness or endemic sadness, I use it as the inspiration in which I set about changing this world.
In truth 2017 has not been a good year for women, women’s rights or the struggle for gender equality as a whole. The never ending metaphorical beat down of the pursuit for justice is one which is easy to give into, lay down and stay silent on due to sheer helplessness and frustration. But my voice is a powerful one, just as others are and particularly of those of you who are reading this article. I don’t promote the saying that we need to speak for those who are voiceless. This is a pointless and utterly denigrating statement which identifies those who are vulnerable and marginalised as defenceless victims who have nothing to offer. People living in power and especially those who are women are not voiceless, instead they simply lack the platform to raise their voices and be heard on a large scale. This is where you and I, and others like us have the ability to speak with them (again not for them) and leverage the platform we have as educated young people in developed countries trying to make a difference in this world.
So every time you feel demoralised by the events of this tumultuous and increasingly discriminative world remember to speak up, speak out and continue to commit to the fight of seeking justice and promoting equality. The battle cry of the HerStory campaign lives within this exact ideal and in which we continue to draw light on the particular injustice of denial of sexual and reproductive rights which is costing women their lives. It centres around the paradigm that if we continue to speak about the abhorrent nature of this repeal of women’s rights that the conversation keeps going and the women who are facing the bulk of this discrimination know that they are not alone in this fight. These women understand that we will not ignore their plight and simply go on with our lives in spite of their peril. We stand beside them and demand the commitment to basic human rights in which women the world over are allowed to make choices about what happens to their own bodies, which has scarily become far from a foregone conclusion.