I spent the last weekend at the Women Of The World Festival at Southbank Centre in London. The festival in its fifth year, draws together a diverse range of experts and opinions from all over the world on issues affecting women. In just two days, I managed to attend discussions on everything from teenagers and pornography to reflections on sexist portrayal of women in underwear adverts.
Along the way I listened to the first ever British Muslim female boxer (whose vest and shorts boxing uniform had to be approved by her local Imam), to an Iraqi MP and her heartwrenching plea on behalf of the Yazidis who were facing imminent slaughter in the hands of the Isis, to the playwright Eve Ensler whose keynote address ended with the packed Festival Hall dancing in the aisles, to a gospel choir who belted out rousing anthems, to a group of refugees who used theatre as a tool to heal their trauma and to many, many more triggers of thoughts.
I recalled both my grandmothers who died at childbirth (one trying not to have a 6th and the other from complications after a 10th baby) and who were long dead before they got my age. I marveled at how much beyond recognition my life is to their own short-lived years. And I thanked all those who had beavered away, making small acts of protest, quiet actions of non-conformity that have gradually made way for the relative equality of women in the Western world where I live.
The West is but a small area in a world where in several parts to be a woman still means to live in perennial peril. And we have a long, long way to go before women can walk on par with men. Events like WOW remind me just how much a part of a larger continuum I am and how important it is to turn the wheel that will set in motion larger, more permanent changes which will ensure a fairer and a more equal world.