I wanted to contribute to ‘Blog Action Day’ and write a piece for the theme of ‘Human Rights’ and decided I would quite like to write about ‘Women and Children in the 21st Century’. As a single Mother on benefits, struggling to cope with depression, anxieties and agoraphobia and in a daily battle with myself over self-loathing and a feeling of failure on the part of being a good Mum and providing for my family, I thought this would be an appropriate piece of writing to attempt. However as I sat at my laptop and thought about how I would begin such a piece of writing I realised I knew nothing about ‘Human Rights’ or specifically the rights of women and children. So how could I possibly ‘write’ about such a thing? With that in mind I apologise if this piece of writing becomes confused, babbling or incoherent but I will give it a go…
I sat and stared at the blinking cursor and thought – why do I want to write this piece? What is it that has affected me so acutely as to compel me to write about women and children in the 21st century for my fellow bloggers to read? – I wasn’t completely sure why I felt so strongly, the urge to share such a piece of writing. I thought about how my life is at the moment and the ups and downs I seem to have experienced since marrying at the tender age of 19. I thought about how many stories I see on the television and in the newspapers about the plight of children in war-torn and poverty-stricken countries; children starving to death, blown up by various weapons of war, orphaned, perhaps living on the streets or in poorly run orphanages, perhaps even rummaging for food or items to sell in rubbish dumps and amongst bomb damage. I thought about the children here in the UK so often on the news because of abuse, dying of neglect, starvation and cruelty in a country supposedly so free and well off. And I thought about women – those in foreign climes perhaps who struggle to feed themselves and their children, who suffer abuse at the hands of men and of religious states who seem to view them more as slaves and subservient to men – their fathers, brothers and husbands (the latter often forced upon them at a young age – as children themselves). I just think as I am finding my life so difficult to deal with (even though I feel blessed to have been born in a country that does have such systems as social security benefits and the National Health service in place to help me – because if I lived anywhere else in the world goodness knows if I would even be alive today), I still feel so sad that women and children (in this day and age) are still suffering!
I think many people (in the western world especially) who have never had to suffer any type of hardship, are under false illusions about how hard it can be for women and children. Why do I include the two together exclusively? Why do I not include single fathers or men in general in my blog about human rights? Good question, I whisper to myself – am I being sexist? No I don’t think so – it’s just that, it is what I observe; and it is what I have experienced – it is somehow the way of the world and always has been that women and children are the most vulnerable in society.
It is true that many women have a good and happy and privileged upbringing and go on to lead healthy happy lives with good careers and then enter into perhaps happy and fulfilling marriages and have healthy and happy children who are loved, encouraged, nurtured, intellectually stimulated, economically stable and then themselves go on to perpetuate this life style. But that I think in my opinion is a western ideal, brought about by women’s rights that in today’s ‘civilised’ world westerners think is the norm. Is it the norm? Is it really? Because I don’t think it is. In my experience the ‘normal’, healthy, happy ‘stable’ family unit of a working, happy and loving Mum, Dad and 2.4 kids and a dog is few and far between – even in the ‘civilised – western world’. Maybe I am just reflecting my own problems in staying in such a ‘family unit’- but I don’t think so. And even where those family units consist of a ‘modern’ woman brought up in that ideal family unit I spoke of – how often in these modern times is that family unit breaking down? And even when the woman has a good education, when she finds herself alone and responsible for the children, things can fall apart very quickly. I mean no woman in her right mind even in ‘Great’ Britain would want to be living on benefits, struggling to make ends meet and feed and clothe and keep a roof over herself and her children’s heads? Add to that – whilst keeping her self-respect and dignity and…well you get the point! Do I sound bitter? I don’t mean to! I’m just struggling to understand my place in the world as a woman – a single mother – an individual human being – without completely losing the plot!
Maybe it is less about women and children in the 21st century and more about humanity in general – maybe I am just feeling disillusioned with ‘humanity’ and my place in it at the moment. There are probably some men out there reading this post (maybe women too) thinking – stop whining woman! What have you got to whine about? You don’t have it that bad! No! You’re probably right. I should just stop whining, stop ‘being’ depressed and get on with it – get a job – and get a life! Right? And I suppose all those women out there ‘being’ beaten up and verbally and emotionally abused and abandoned by the men in their lives should stop whining and get on with it too – right? And I suppose all those women out there who are dying of starvation in, say Africa somewhere should stop whining and stop having children and get on with it – right? And I suppose all those women out there whose men are dying and being killed because of war should stop whining and get on with it – right? Except it’s not that simple is it? It’s not that black and white! It’s not a matter of how it should be – it’s a matter of how it is! Women don’t choose to be vulnerable, life makes it that way! They don’t choose to be abused, abandoned, widowed, impoverished, sick and unemployable – that’s just the way life has worked out for them. And for the most part they DO just get on with it. Getting on with it is a way of life for such women and children! And whether a vulnerable woman or child is living in the UK or Iran or Africa or China or the flippin’ moon – it doesn’t matter – without help and support for them ‘humanity’ will never be ‘civilised’ in my opinion.
It just seems to me at the moment that women and children in the 21st century are being let down. Not only are they being let down by their governments, but they are being let down by their communities – by ‘humanity’. When Hamzah Khan, that vulnerable little 4 year old boy was found starved to death and abandoned under piles of rubbish in his cot in the ‘civilised’ United Kingdom – where was the community? Where was humanity? Where was his extended family whilst his mother was drinking herself to death and oblivious of her children’s needs because she couldn’t cope? Where were the authorities? Where was compassion, empathy, respect? Where was that family’s help so they could ‘get on with it’? Where was ‘humanity’ when Malala Yousafzai was being shot in the head just because she spoke up for girls’ rights to go to school? Where is humanity whilst India’s abandoned widows struggle to survive on charity? Women and Children in the 21st Century – being abandoned, neglected, ignored… by ‘humanity’. ‘Human’ Rights? How can ‘humanity’ tackle human rights when it is not equal to start with?