Thursday, 24 November 2016

A Black Friday for Women

It's Black Friday. But while shops are full of bargain hunters and the introverts amongst us clog the online airwaves, the rest of the world are marking a day far more important than a good price for the latest X box.

Today, 25th November, is the UN's Elimination of Violence Against Women day.

It might come as a shock but the UN website tells us that across the globe, 1 in 3 women experience some form of violence in their lifetime. 

A recent report I read told me that 1 in 5 men in Cambodia admit to having raped a woman. (Cambodia Daily newspaper)

More than 700 million women alive today were married as children. Girls under the age of 18 who marry are far more likely to suffer violence from their husbands. (UN website)

30% of women in Bangladesh report that their first sexual experience was forced. (WHO)

As I read these statistics a few weeks ago for another piece I was writing, I put my head down in front of my laptop and wept. I wept for the women and girls who know no different. I wept at the injustice and I cried tears for the girls who have nobody else to weep for them. And these girls have haunted me ever since. 

These numbers not only alarm me, they make me angry. I find it difficult to understand how women and girls can still be treated as property to buy (not unlike the X boxes and televisions fought over today). I can't bear living in a world that causes so much pain.  Every time I read another statistic, I think of another girl facing yet more violence and injustice and I feel her fear, her pain and her helplessness.

I want to scoop all these women and girls up and give them the life they deserve. A life in which they are honoured, respected, cherished and loved. A life that offers them opportunities of education and careers. A life where they can be who they were made to be without simply having to survive the dangers around them. And, in my small
Worcestershire town, I feel helpless too.

Until I realise I am raising three young men who are world changers.

I'm not a mum of girls. I can't teach my daughters to fight for equality and justice for themselves.  But I can teach my sons.

As a mum of boys, I can teach them to treasure women and treat them with respect. 

I can teach my boys to honour the women and girls around them - giving them dignity and equal status.

I can't teach my daughters how to protect themselves, but I can teach my sons how to protect women. I can teach them to stand up for women when friends are making sexist, uncouth jokes. I can teach them to step in when they see a woman facing violence. 

I can teach them that women are more than their bodies. I can teach them to listen to women's ideas instead of guessing their bra sizes.

I can teach my boys that when we love someone, we don't hurt them. 

I can teach these young men, who will grow up to be husbands and fathers (I hope..) that sex isn't a weapon or a form of control.

I can teach them that, unlike the Black Friday deals of today which will be rubbish by next Christmas, women are to be loved and cherished for life and not simply thrown away when a newer model comes along. 

And so, I realise that there is so much I can do in my small world to eliminate violence for women. 

I'm determined because the consequences if I don't are too far reaching. My young men are reformers in a broken world and my job as their mum is to train them to be those who bring change. 

Black Friday will come and go. Violence against women is a reality every day for millions. And I'm committed to seeing this change.