By: Nargis Walker
This is a sad anniversary that we remember today. This was the day last year when once again, you saw your freedoms vanish: your rights to live freely, to learn, to have ambitions, to work, to dress and go where you please, and be with whomever you choose.
You are not alone. Everywhere the lives and freedoms of women are under attack. I cannot pretend that we in the West face the same restrictions and problems as you. By comparison, we are fortunate and relatively free. But the same dark forces want to restrict us, the way they have restricted you. The sisterhood must fight for each other. Our thoughts are with you.
So what can we do? What can you do?
We need to create a plan to help us fight back. It may be a long time before we can claim what is ours, but the first thing we must do is to hope and dream. Those are not empty actions. For no-one can see into our hearts and our minds. That realm belongs to us, only to us. We can take refuge there, and no-one can take that away from us. To hope and to dream is powerful, it is the fuel that drives us on. What is planted there, are the seeds that will grow into mighty actions when the time is right. They will sustain us when all else has failed.
Then too, every nation and every people is born of and sustained by, the loving hearts and hands of women. If we can bear the pain of childbirth, it shows how strong we are. We are capable of doing difficult things. We sustain our children, our sons and daughters, but also our parents and sisters and brothers and husbands. We make sacrifices out of love, not because we are forced. That is because we are life givers, not life takers. And we have a role in educating the next generations by our example.
We might well ask how we can educate others when schools and books are forbidden to us, when the life of the mind is not allowed to grow and flourish. But there are ways. They are the ways that women have used for centuries. So here is the second thing we can do.
There is a saying by the Greek philosopher Aristotle; “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man”. Of course, he is talking about men, but there is no reason for us to assume that anything different applies to women! As women, we are so privileged to have access to the minds and hearts of young children. What we tell them and say to them will leave deep impressions, often for life. Children can be brought up with great kindness – or cruelty. And we can shape them to be thinkers and doers and dreamers and champions, people who grow up with a sense of their own self-worth and respect the worth of others. Others like their mothers and sisters and aunts, other women and indeed men. We need to instill this in both our sons and our daughters.
So how do we teach? There is something very simple that we can do. This miracle of teaching is called ‘story’. When we tell stories, as every culture has done from the very beginning of time, we are instilling in our children the values and behaviours that will help them to be good people and good citizens. Stories we tell our children don’t have to be the traditional ones. In our stories, not only should the boys be brave and clever and cunning but we can allow the same for the girls. Not only should our girls in stories be kind and generous and loving and modest: so should be the boys. That way we can teach our sons and daughters that no one’s behaviour or emotion is solely for one gender or the other. We are all human. Only when our sons and brothers and fathers feel the same ambition and respect for us, can we truly be free. Only when our daughters and sisters and mothers recognise that they have the right to the same freedoms and ambitions as the men in their lives, can they start to fight for these.
Here is a quote from a book that means something:
“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
So dear sisters, I am ending here. I send you my love and my support for whatever it is worth. May your lives become happier and better. May your ambitions be realized. May you have joy and freedom in the years to come.
Nargis Walker is a retired teacher in the United Kingdom