Contribution: If We Stop, The World Stops

This article is a contribution to our blog by our volunteer Paola Hernandez. She joined the World Solidarity Forum as volunteer in 2017, where she helps organising events and collaborating in the realisation of future projects. She thinks we should all be able to start conversations that make us uncomfortable to achieve a positive change in the world where equity, respect and freedom are core values. We thank her for this great piece and for all her help.

I come from a country in which:

  • The salary gap is 15%, and most of company managers, university rectors, political and judicial positions are occupied mainly by men;
  • The difference between the average retirement pension is 38% – while women received 757 euros, a man can received 1211 euros;
  • The unemployment rate is higher among women (18.4%) than among men (15%);
  • Approximately 95% of people who work part-time or do not seek employment to care for their children or a sick family member are women;
  • One in four young people sees “normal” partner violence taking into account that 924 women have been murdered by their partners or ex-partners since 2003;
  • Numerous inspirational women have been erased from history (most of them under the 40 years Franco dictatorship); and
  • Women (62%) reported poorer health than men (73%).[1]

Yet, there is still a lot of ignorance in regards to the health promotion and disease prevention of women (reproductive) health problems, thus access to medical support in relation to the daily life natural processes of women (as has happened with menopause or menstruation) is harder than for men’s and becomes also part of the gender inequalities we experience.

I come from a country that years ago decided to restrict access to certain health services for a  safe and legal abortion. Abortion is legal in most European countries, despite a wide variation in the the restrictions under which it is permitted, in except of micro-states, Malta, Poland, and Ireland (both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) were great prohibitions on abortion exist.[2] Though, I really hope things will change in the last country by the end of May 2018, due to the constitutional referendum on abortion.

In my country, and at broader  European level, we are still missing data on other important societal factors that affect and touch women more than men, such as women trafficking, prostitution, or sexual)cyberbullying, and most importantly, we are missing a lot of sexual education that teach us the real meaning of ‘consent’. Since 2011, only 11 out of the 28 EU Member States launched campaigns for the prevention of sexual violence and victim-blaming in cases of sexual violence or rape is still the norm in Europe.

Moreover the situation is even worse outside Europe, where millions of girls have been subjected to genital mutilation, and millions of women are not protected by law if they come to experience sexual violence in their homes.

These are just some of the reasons, but there are thousands  more for which the last 8th March, billions of women in the world gathered, took action, and raised their voices for claiming their rights. This year the #MeToo world movement and its counterparts in other countries really moved thousands of people to action: what we experienced last Thursday will be remembered.

I have never felt so proud of my country, in which demonstrations in favour of equality, non-discrimination and social justice were numerous, and inspirational in rural and urban settings. For example, women from all ages, nationalities, and religions sang along in Bilbao an adapted version of ‘A la huelga‘ (written by Chicho Sánchez Ferlosio in 1963, it is one of the most popular songs of the Spanish resistance):

A la huelga compañera, no vayas a trabajar

Deja el cazo, la herramienta, el teclado y el ipad

A la huelga diez, a la huelga cien, a la huelga madre ven tu también

A la huelga cien, a la huelga mil, yo por ellas madre y ellas por mi.

Contra el estado machista nos vamos a levantar,

Vamos todas las mujeres a la huelga general

A la huelga diez, a la huelga cien, la cartera dice que viene también.

A la huelga cien, a la huelga mil, todas a la huelga vamos a ir.

Sorry (not sorry) for not translating this part of the lyrics, but when you come from a country in which women has suffered so much, but also fought so much for a change, you are not allowed to silence them.

As a women, I feel excited that for once we were on the front page of all media, despite the fact that not everyone felt comfortable with this fact, and some even got scared by what they saw, heard and read on the past 8th March, scared by how much power women can have as a group. But what they have to realise is that if we want to progress everyone has a part to play. That’s why for me, the 8th March is not the most important day, which instead is day after.

Personally, I will do my bit in my daily life, and I really hope you can join me (even if you are a man) because remember: if we stop, the world stops (with us).

[1] Spanish Institute for Women’s Affairs: http://www.inmujer.gob.es/MujerCifras/Home.htm

[2] General Abortion Policies Database / World Health Organization: http://srhr.org/abortion-policies/countries/

To learn more about what we can all do to empower women and make sure the violence against them comes to an end, join us on the 27th March for a debate at the European Parliament: http://bit.ly/2G5e7ia

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