Week 12: 27 November 2011
Women’s Rights Advisor at ActionAid UK
Start with the challenge that divides one half of our populations from the other
Dear Nowhereisland citizens
It must be quite exciting to know what you know, and yet have a blank canvas on which to paint things as you’d like them to be. Are you ready for the new world you are creating?
When I think about the best places I’ve ever been, at least part of the reason I’ve enjoyed them so much is down to how inspired I felt there. Some of this is about the built environment – are there fountains and gardens, is there enough daylight getting through the windows – and quite a lot of it is about the people I meet and how we relate to each other.
In designing a new space to inhabit, will you be able to take the best of what we’ve learned about how to live with each other, and push it further to create a place where every single person finds themselves at home in this new land?
Our histories together have often not been good ones. Violence, inequality and oppression pervade our relationships. We struggle to get on as individuals, groups and indeed whole countries. Some people have amassed great wealth and power while others are struggling to survive and lack control over even the most fundamental decisions affecting their lives.
And yet there is nothing inevitable about violence, inequality or oppression. Each is created and continued by the decisions we make. So we can decide to make different choices.
Indeed, some of our histories together have often also been great ones. We have ended transatlantic slavery, ensured women have the right to vote and banned child labour. We have played sport together, created music together, danced together, and written together.
Can we do more of the great and abandon the rest? And could we start with the challenge that divides one half of our populations from the other?
Inequality between women and men means millions of women around the world, every single day, are subject to violence and denied their basic human rights. Nowhereisland residents could, if you chose to, decide you will no longer tolerate this. You could, together, agree that:
- No man will have more power than or more power over any woman, just because he is a man
- No woman will be entitled to less than or be subordinate to any man, just because she is a woman
It could really be that simple: equality.
Nowhereisland could be the place where women can make decisions about their lives and futures in a whole new way. It could be the place women have control over their bodies, able to decide whether, when, with whom and under what circumstances they choose a partner. It could be the place where women’s labour, all of it, whether in the home or in their workplaces, was safe, decent, recognized and fairly rewarded. It could be the place where women have the same entitlements to the resources of the world, rather than being denied them just because they are female: they would have access to the land they need to grow food, and the homes they need to take care of themselves and live lives of dignity. It could be the place where women could achieve, in schools, politics, the world of business and so on, heights that till now have been the purview of men or only very elite women.
And Nowhereisland could be the place where violence against women and girls never existed.
25 November, which has just passed, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. What would happen if Nowhereisland were able to meet this vision of a land of equality between women and men? Could we enjoy 25 November 2012 as if it was any other day?
If that is the kind of place Nowhereisland aimed to be, then that is a place I would want to visit.
Zohra Moosa is Women’s Rights Advisor at ActionAid UK. She is the author of Destined to fail? How violence against women is undoing development (February 2010). Prior to this role, she was Senior Policy & Campaigns Officer at the Fawcett Society where she ran Seeing Double, a national programme on the needs and priorities of ethnic minority women in the UK. Her Fawcett publications include Lifts and Ladders: resolving ethnic minority women's exclusion from power (June 2009) and Poverty Pathways: ethnic minority women’s livelihoods (June 2009). Zohra is a regular writer and commentator on equality and justice and blogs at