For many years, I misunderstood the meaning of feminism. I believed it to mean disgruntled or angry women against all men. However, being a major Emma Watson fan growing up, I was eager to watch her speech at the United Nations Headquarters, launching a campaign called “HeForShe” which clarified the true meaning of feminism: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” I realised then that feminism was simply another word for equality.
I have been lucky to grow up believing that I can achieve anything I set my mind to; I am not limited in any way because I am female. However, there are many others who are not so lucky. Across Africa and the Middle East, an average 50% of women believe domestic violence is justified in certain circumstances. In places like Niger or Mali, over half of girls between 15 and 19 are married. This environment obstructs women from getting an education and therefore contributing to their country’s progress and development. It is immeasurably unjust that these women are told they are inferior to men, that they do not deserve an equal chance in life because of their sex.
This makes me realise how fortunate I am. Things that I considered to be customary, I now recognize to be a hard fought for privilege; that my sister and I have always been treated as equal to my brother, and that my education has never been limited because I am a girl. I feel so fortunate to be a young woman at a time with campaigns such as ‘Time’s Up’, where so many women are standing up for fundamental rights so that by the time I enter the workplace, there will be even more progression towards complete equality. Watching so many women speak up and stand up for themselves and others is completely inspiring and it makes me so grateful to them all for making the world a better place for my generation moving forward.
I am so thankful that I have so many women in my life who inspire me just by being themselves and carrying themselves with confidence. I love seeing them thrive in their lives and I always want to support them with their decisions. To be honest, I know I can be quite judgemental at times, however as I move forward I am learning more and more that I am not always going to agree with everything people do, but in order to be a good friend I have to support them. This is so important as there is nothing more progressive within the fight for equality than women supporting women instead of constantly judging what they wear or their mothering techniques or whether they work or not.
It is therefore my wish that men and women continue to stand up for feminism, so that one day, all girls can receive the same rights and opportunities that I have grown up with. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive and strong. Men should no longer feel the need to be the commander just as women should not feel obligated to be submissive. This is what feminism is to me, and I am so excited to be living at this time when progressive change is happening.