May 16th, 2014

Womens Rights

At our Cranbrook Girls Club this week we had a great discussion about what it means to be a woman. I read out a series of statements about women’s rights and roles and the girls had to go to a different part of the room to show if they agreed, disagreed or weren’t sure. They then had the opportunity to explain why they had chosen that position. This group of 10 girls had a range of heritages including Bangladeshi, Caribbean, Somali and White British as well as having a real variety of backgrounds and circumstances. Yet they all, in one way or another, expressed an understanding that as women, they had equal rights to education, to work, to safety and to make decisions about their own lives. This was so encouraging to me.

I was also impressed by the confidence and conviction with which many of them spoke. Far from the stereotype of teenage girls who only want to talk about celebrities, make-up and boys, these young women demonstrated that they were informed, passionate and articulate. They also spoke with balance and grace. One girl was quick to disassociate herself from a feminism which is about “man-hating” and several others to point out that men can be just as skilled as women at raising children and that skill was particular to an individual rather than their gender.

As the horrific abduction of over 200 Nigerian girls to deny them their rights to education and freedom continues, I am reminded of the relative privilege and freedom our girls experience despite their disadvantages. Mercifully, it is unlikely that our girls will ever have to face such extreme and horrendous opposition to their rights and beliefs, yet even in our society they will face challenges in holding on to and applying the values they expressed in our session, for themselves and for others. I am however massively encouraged that they have these views as their starting point and am excited by the opportunity that we have to support them in continuing to develop and walk in their convictions and to challenge oppression wherever they find it.