It's Time to Empower the Youth
Welcome to my first ever blog post, here on my own website. I'm sorry I haven't posted anything sooner.
For my first post, I wanted to focus on a topic that I'm passionate about. My topic for this blog is woman empowerment.
A few weeks ago, I returned from one of the best trips of my life. I was lucky enough to secure one of 30 places on a scholarship trip to go to India for a life-changing experience. This trip was with the incredible charity WE and was payed for and sponsored by Virgin Atlantic.
On this trip, I went on a roller-coaster; I helped to build a secondary school for some amazing young children, I joined the water walk that women of the community do, I was able to see some dazzling scenery, and I saw poverty and serious issues of poorer countries first-hand. Whilst I had the time of my life on trip meeting and interacting with the 29 other young people from all across the UK, I also saw the facts and statistics come to life right in front of my eyes. This wasn't a piece of paper or a picture in front of my eyes anymore, it was real people just living their life the way they're used to. It was partly shocking that some living conditions were so low. There was a huge difference between life in India and life in the UK. Everybody was so grateful for just a smile or a high-five... But, here at home, we're not even grateful for the brand new expensive phones (this isn't aimed at everyone because no one person is the same, it's just the impression I get from this country). I realised over my time on the trip that it's not about what you've got, it's about who you are.
During our 'A Day in the Life' activity, we were invited into the home of a lovely young woman. Rani (not her real name) welcomed us into a small room where there was bedding and a small cooking appliance. At first, I thought it was just a room of their house until Rani told us it was her house. She lives with her husband and her two sons in that one tiny room. It shocked me. Rani then went on to explain her life story to us and how as soon as she was married, she became her in-laws responsibility and had to live with them. Her two sons, one is 15 and the other is only 4, are her pride and joy. Her 15 year old son is lucky enough to attend school and she was planning for her 4 year old to go to school as soon as he was old enough.
Whilst she taught us how to roll chapatis (Indian flatbread) to become the 'perfect' housewife, she answered our questions. We found out that her family are hours away from her and she doesn't see them often because of the fact that they have no way to communicate. Additionally, her day as a mother involves many jobs from cooking every meal (usually chapatis and rice due to the low income for food), to looking after the whole family (especially her 4 year old son), to collecting water multiple times, to looking after the community animals (like the few goats they have). She usually wakes up very early in the morning to do everything and together the family sleep fairly early in the evening. I asked Rani something more personal. I asked her what her biggest regret was. She said it was not attending school. Because of the fact Rani was married quite young and became a mother, she wasn't able to attend school. Education is so important in life and every child deserves it, regardless of their skin colour, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. I believe that in richer places, like the USA, the UK, Australia, a lot of children take school for granted and use it as a time to mess around, not paying attention in classes. It's heartbreaking thinking that when you know and have met people and children who would have done anything just to have the opportunity, or to even simply own a pencil and paper.
In particular, young girls are often the ones denied the opportunity of education. In India especially, young girls are married from the age of 4 and up because her parents can't afford to look after her so they give the responsibility to the in-laws. Young girls also struggle with their health, like their menstrual cycles. Due to the lack of education on health topics and lack of access to needed resources/sanitary products, young girls fear their periods so much that they don't turn up to school. They become so embarrassed about the nature of being a woman that they completely pull out of school or are unable to make the most of their education. Shockingly, worldwide, there are 31 million girls aged 4+ who are out of school - 17 million of them are believed to never get an education. In total, there are around 130 million girls out of education, all around the world.
Hearing Rani talk about her life and struggles really made me think deeper. It's obvious that we have a serious problem with the empowerment of women. Women aren't receiving the encouragement or reassurance they need to be able to do the 'simple' things in life. The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness of these global issues and inspire as many as people as possible to want to make a change. Being female myself, I can understand some struggles and I've experienced a lot of discrimination from gaming online to playing the drums, even from wearing less feminine clothes. It's incredibly unfair on women to experience this when we just want to express ourselves freely. Many men experience these struggles and problems too. Therefore, I'm focusing on my experiences and what I witnessed in a poorer country to inspire everybody to speak out against any forms of discrimination or challenging situations.
Considering how society is in today's world, it's difficult to believe in anything because it's always challenged or people only focus on the negatives. But why is that? Every woman, every young girl, every human being has the right to express their self through whatever they want. Nobody should be restricted for things like going to school. We, as a society, need to reduce the 130 million girls to 0 girls. Many countries, like India, have traditions for issues like child marriage whether it's legal or not. But as a powerful group of change-makers, we need to challenge tradition to strengthen successes in life. Every young girl should be able to stand up and say 'no' to child marriage or FGM or being denied an education. Every woman should be able to say 'no' to being forced to stay at home or being refused the opportunity to get a successful job. Every man should be able to say 'no' to being restricted on expressing their possible feminine side or to people trying to stop from achieving the dreams they have. Every human should say 'yes' to opportunity and to a happy, successful life. We should not be restricting people of opportunities because we would be interfering with strangers lives for all the
I have a vision that one day society WILL be more inclusive, and that as a world we WILL unite and battle stigma, discrimination and negativity. Together we shall empower women to speak up for what they believe in, just like the incredible, inspirational Malala did.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Let me know your thoughts! - AllyshiaV x
Read up more on girls in education here: en.unesco.org/gem-report/sites/gem-report/files/girls-factsheet-en.pdf https://www.malala.org/girls-education