My vision: Inspiring change through women's voices of solutions
Nawal Al-Saadawi, a prominent Egyptian feminist-activist and author, who is well into her 80s and still rocking it, dedicated one of her novels to “male and female wanderers, in search of hope.” That phrase resonates with me so much. I am a female wanderer in search of hope who wants to make a difference. But more specifically, I want to dedicate my work and entirely shift my focus lens to changing women's lives.
Combining journalism and development has always been important. But, in these past few years, combining journalism, development and feminism has become a passion. I want to capture and write stories about women's everyday struggles as well as their extraordinary feats and how they bring new ideas and solutions to the world.
To me, that starts with the women who take problems and turn them into an opportunity to make a real change.
For example, that's exactly what the young women at HarassMap are doing (http://harassmap.org/en/) Recently, I conducted an interview with this inspiring young feminist initiative out of Egypt.
HarassMap works on combating street sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a daily struggle for women (and even some men) in Egypt; from catcalls, to groping all the way to more extreme forms of sexual harassment like rape. But, four young women decided they had enough. Together, they co-founded HarassMap, the online reporting system that empowers victims to share an incident of harassment and map out where it happened. The information collected online is used by teams of volunteers to talk to people in their neighbourhoods and convince them that harassment needs to stop. More than just a mapping tool, HarassMap wants to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment.
While harassment is a daily occurrence, over the past months, there has been a surge in gang rape and violence in and around Tahrir square, in Cairo. Women’s rights groups say these attacks have been organized by the government to try to stop young women from claiming their rightful space to be at demonstrations and in the public sphere. But, the response from young Egyptian women has been: “You will not stop us, you will not break us. This is our revolution, these are our streets.”
I had the honour of interviewing Rebecca Chiao, co-founder of HarassMap. You can listen to their inspiring story here: https://soundcloud.com/awid-1/interview-with-harassmap-co
From Egypt, I fly back to Canada where there are also examples of Canadian women of action. (I'm often trying to strike a delicate balance between the country of my roots (Egypt) and the country where my parents chose to immigrate and have me :) (Canada))
A prime example of Canadian women making waves is in the fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Let me tell you the amazing story of the Radical Handmaids (RH) http://radicalhandmaids.com/about/.
When parliamentarians were trying to pass an anti-abortion bill that would rollback the long and hard-fought right to legal and safe abortions, the RH decided it was time to fight back – CREATIVELY! So, women, who were angry about this attack on reproductive rights in Canada, were asked to channel all their anger into knitting wooly wombs and sending them to members of parliament. So, they did. (Imagine the scene: a middle aged anti-choice member of parliament gets a wooly womb in the mail and thinks: what's that?) :D
The result: by creatively resisting anti-choice attacks on reproductive rights, the RH managed to strike down the proposed anti-abortion bill. But, the fight is not over. Conservative members of parliament are trying new tactics (and passing of a new bill!) to undermine Canadian women's rights to abortions. The Radical Handmaids are a prime example of women's creative spirit at work.
Unfortunately, not many people know these amazing stories. These are the kinds of women's voices of solution I want to shine a light on through Voices of our Future.
Simply put, my vision for the future is a feminist world where women, children, men are living free and equal.
AND, I leave you to think about this vision of mine with the following quote: “Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions.. for safety on the streets… for child care, for social welfare…for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law.” (If someone says) ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist,’ (I ask) ‘Why? What’s your problem?’” -Dale Spender