The world is a place of constant change, we are living through it and we are seeing the effects of this now more than ever. With the news constantly perpetuating stories that are upsetting, traumatic and sometimes even depressing, it is easy for us to make ourselves immune to feeling anything in response to them.
When we hear that the number of Covid-19 deaths has gone up, it is easy to see the death rate as a statistic.
When we hear that there is a human rights disaster happening in a foreign country, it is easy to say ‘It is not happening to us, and we can’t do anything about it’.
When we hear that our political leaders are flippantly talking about the lives of immigrants as if they are purely a rating based on how beneficial they are to our economy, it is easy to ignore the news because it is not happening to us.
Well, wake up and smell the coffee: it is not happening to you, but it is happening to your world.
I think that accountability is going amiss in 2020. With Trump and his fake – sorry ‘alternative’ – facts being circulated, and political battles turning into a competition of who can manipulate the media the best, it is easy to look at a screen telling us every day that human rights are not being looked after, and not process it.
This was me for the first 19 years of my life, I have to reluctantly and ashamedly admit. I would watch the news every morning while eating my porridge in the comfort and safety of my own home. For the twenty minutes that I watched it, I thought ‘Oh, how awful for these people’, before the horror of what was happening in the world left my mind and I carried on with my day-to-day life.
What I really want to say is that books have changed this for me. Books have made me a politically driven girl who wants to fight for human rights and to allow marginalised people to have the space they deserve to speak up and be accepted.
I read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, it taught me that racism is present in today’s world, and that its effects are astonishing and horrifying. It taught me how easily racism is perpetuated in a world that does not have everybody actively fighting against such acts. While I watched the Black Lives Matter protests unfold, and digested what was happening with George Floyd, I knew that racism is not something I should be passively resisting, but something I should be actively resisting.
When I read The Power by Naomi Alderman, I learnt about Female Genital Mutilation that happens to women. In Alderman’s book, women possess skeins which give them the power to electrocute men around them. However, giving away as little as possible, a female character gets hers taken away from her. In a research article that I then went on to find, I learnt that this was paralleling the awful FGM that happens around the world today. As a brief overview of what FGM is, the World Health Organisation’s website states that it “involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”; more than 200 million girls and women who are alive today have had to suffer through this.
Finally, although there are so many more human rights violations that I have not even touched upon, I recently read Inconvenient Daughter by LJ Sharkey. This touched upon domestic abuse and how violent relationships can come, even at a young age. So many women live their lives in fear on a daily basis, from something as simple as walking home alone at night. What makes this perpetual fear something that consumes somebody is when women are put into compromising situations like in this novel, when the protagonist is being physically and mentally abused by someone they once trusted. In a report made in March 2019, the statistic for women who were abused in twelve months lay at 1.6 million.
These violations are a reality, as my parallels between fiction and real-life statistics show: they are not something to be looked at on a screen.
These violations are the lives of real people, who have to wake up every day and fear for their safety.
I am angry and I am committed to helping as many people as I can in my lifetime, so that they do not have to live their lives oppressed, marginalised or in danger. At the moment, I am educating myself on these matters, with the focus of investing a lot of my time in to helping those who need it. I feel a little bit lost as to where I can direct my efforts, but for now I want to say that reading has opened up a whole world of horrors to me, and a whole world that needs helping and saving.
As a new project here at Women’s Writes, this blog will post a piece a month that focuses on a book you can read to educate yourself on a human rights matter. Educating yourself is not going to change problems overnight, but it is the beginning of the ladder and it is essential to knowing where to start. We want to open up the discourse around human rights violations that are present, because it is so easy to not notice them when it is not directly affecting our day-to-day lives.
Let us fight for equality and respect for everybody, together. I hope that our blog educates you and motivates you to do the same.
You can find and purchase the books mentioned here:
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/An-American-Marriage-by-Tayari-Jones-author/9781786075192?a_aid=womenswrites
- The Power by Naomi Alderman: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/The-Power-by-Naomi-Alderman-author/9780670919963?a_aid=womenswrites
- Inconvenient Daughter by Lauren J. Sharkey: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Inconvenient-Daughter-by-Lauren-J-Sharkey-author/9781617757099?a_aid=womenswrites
Words by: Sophie Wilson
Image by @luciadong on Unsplash