Written by Sonya-Marie Dariya
Last week I went to an event in the Commonwealth secretariat that was set up to advocate the elimination of violence against women in the UN. There was a panel of speakers, including Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, second counsellor of education from the Kenyan High Commission, Margaret Lesuuda, chief scientific advisor and director of research and evidence at DFID, Professor Charlotte Watts, and Commonwealth Girls Education Fund ambassador, Ladi Dariya. They all gave the most moving and empowering talks on the effects of acts of violence on women in commonwealth countries, they mainly focused on female genital mutilation (FGM) and the impacts it has on millions of women physically and emotionally.
FGM is the process where girls as young as 5 are taken to places to partake in a ‘cutting’ ceremony in order to be perceived by their community as women. This means that they can be married off at that age to a man almost 5 times their age. If you agree that this is despicable you know it needs to change.
We watched a video about a young girl called Nancy who started a revolution against FGM by at first refusing to have it done and then giving girls who didn’t have her confidence a voice.
You can read more about it here https://nancysgirlrevolution.com/
One talk that particularly took my attention was that of, Ladi Dariya. When she was a young girl her father died. His other wives took all the money leaving her family in poverty. She was sent off to live with her uncle and had to work as a goat herder. In a nutshell, she was bad at it. She would often let the goats run wild while she stuck into school. This was because in her community only boys went to school as it was seen as a more valuable investment. Soon after the village started complaining about the goat-related destruction of their crops, which eventually led to her uncle reluctantly letting her go to school. This was going great all until secondary school. At that point she was in trouble. This was until a charity, then know as the Commonwealth Countries League, sponsored her through secondary school. She eventually went to university and met a lovely man, before going on to have three amazingly empowered daughters.
After the talks I felt empowered. I knew that people my age were worrying about marriage while I worried about homework and that needed to change. Not every girl is as lucky as Ladi was and that needs to change. We need to stand up and (not physically) fight for as long as it takes to abolish these injustices forever.
Your friendly neighbourhood feminist.
Ps: If you couldn’t tell Ladi is my mum.