Women’s rights, as understood by American women, are often limited to what impacts us immediately. At times, we have a narrowed point of view that unintentionally excludes the experiences of women in other parts of the world. In truth, women’s rights are a global fight, impacting women of various ethnic groups, religions and economic standings.
As a woman traveling around the world, it may only then become clear how different the status of women is from region to region. The sexism and inequality faced may be more subtle in one country whereas in another, you cannot move about freely unless you are accompanied by a man.
However, no matter which corner of the globe you are from, there are women rising up and battling for their rights. Read on to learn about three inspiring women and their fight against injustice.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie of Nigeria is “Flawless”
It was at the very end of 2013 that many outside of the feminist community were given an opportunity to know the name of Nigerian author and women’s rights advocate, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A portion of her April 2013 TED talk was featured in the single “Flawless” by popular recording artist Beyonce.
Beyonce may be credited with shining a light on Adichie, but Adichie is credited with breaking down the idea of feminism to its core. The idea, as she explained it, is that women are working toward the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. This is an important point because when one views things globally, it’s easy to see how there is a disparity in virtually every country on Earth.
Being African, she does not possess a face or ethnicity that is typically thought of as representing women’s rights. Her elevated visibility lends a powerful voice to the women of color who fight for equality, but often feel unheard or invisible because they are not white or a Western ethnicity.
She is able to give a voice to the underrepresented women of color in the feminist movement. At the same time, she is able to communicate that women the world over have basic, rational and legitimate concerns rather than stereotypical beliefs.
Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan is a Survivor
A U.S. Congressional panel recently voted to increase the number of scholarships available to young women and girls in Pakistan who are seeking an education. It would be called the Malala Yousafzai Act, named for the intrepid Pakistani girl whose defiance of the Taliban nearly cost Yousafzai her life.
Since coming to power in Pakistan, the Taliban has instituted a ban on education for girls. Young Yousafzai kept a blog that shared her opinions as to why this ban was unjust. She also continued to try and attend school despite the ban.
On October, 9 2012 a man boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. The cowardly attempt to silence her failed. Without knowing it, Yousafzai would become a beacon for change in her village and across the globe.
In order to ensure her continued safety, Yousafzai has been forced to flee her beloved Swat Valley, however she has not opted for silence and hiding. She said in her address to the United Nations in October of 2013, “They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed.”
She is among the youngest women’s rights advocates known on a global scale, but her story is a powerful one. Yousafzai travels and speaks on her own behalf and shares her beliefs about education with the world.
Suey Park of The United States is Proof of Intersectionality
Suey Park shares that importance of promoting women’s rights issues and the non-white experience.
She most recently headed the “Cancel Colbert” virtual movement, brought on by a racially insensitive remark sent by the Twitter account for Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report.
However, the lion share of Park’s recent attention came via her #NotYourAsianSidekick hashtag discussion on Twitter. The Korean American expressed that she was tired of Asian women being treated as “tokens” in the women’s rights conversation.
Unfortunately, the pressure that women of color feel to emulate themselves after white women is largely ignored in the women’s rights struggle. Though sexism is partially to blame for unrealistic beauty standards as applied to all women, it doesn’t help women of color believe in the feminist fight when issues of color are seen as a distraction to the “real issues”.
Park represents a rising tide of non-white women’s rights advocates who are demanding a conversation about intersectionality. That is, Park believes that there are multiple systems of discrimination and oppression that non-white women face, in addition to the women’s rights movement, which need to be addressed.
These women are of different ethnicities, age groups, and yet they all represent the reality that women’s rights have many non-white, non-Western voices that need to be heard and respected. Although they come from different regions of the world, they are all fighting similar battles. These women want the right to be educated in corporate law, they are fighting for a chance to represent their government, and some are tenaciously battling for the opportunity to walk down the street without a man.
The fight for women’s rights is a global conversation, with global voices. And we must hear and fight for one another.