I'm off to Brazil

Monday, 28 February 2011

This is a post which goes some way towards explaining why it's been pretty quiet around here of late - and also why I won't be around for the next week or so.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. What began in 1911 as a day when men and women alike attended rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote and an end to discrimination is now officially celebrated in 70 countries and marked with a variety of events across the globe. Although there are so many differences in the issues women face worldwide and the concerns they have, March 8th is a day when we can all celebrate who we are, call for equality and respect and try to bring about change.

While there are hundreds of IWD events taking place across the UK in the next few weeks, the country as a whole doesn't go in for commemorating the day in a big way and that's why I was so excited to hear about the work of the EQUALS coalition. Spearheaded by Annie Lennox, it's a partnership of charities like the Fawcett Society, ActionAid and Women For Women International and is working with stars like Paloma Faith and V V Brown. And this year, EQUALS is putting on events, asking big questions and trying to get people talking about women's rights today and what it really means to be 'equals'.

It's because of EQUALS and its partnership with ActionAid that I'm off to Brazil on March 1st as part of the Bollocks to Inequality initiative to look at gender equality from a different perspective and gain insight into the way making it a priority can really impact communities for the better. As it stands, there are many, many countries where being born female puts you at an incredible disadvantage, but working to empower women has a markedly positive effect on society as a whole.

So why is this? It's not difficult to imagine why when you look at the stats. 70% of the world's poor are women. Gender-based violence causes more death among women and girls than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war.And while women do 66% of the world's work and produce 50% of its food, they earn just 10% of its income and own 1% of its property. Change the outcome for women and you can impact a nation.

ActionAid has been doing sterling work on gender equality for a number of years and has been working in Brazil since 1999. Much of its work centres on combating poverty, empowering communities and improving prospects for young people. The country struggles with extreme income inequality, meaning that the richest 10% of it inhabitants earn almost half its income. The poorest 10% receive less than 1.2%.

We'll be meeting young people to find out how their lives are being changed by work on gender equality - such learning about safe sex, getting better access to education and speaking out about sexual violence. In order to do this we'll be visiting one of the most poverty-stricken and dangerous favelas in Rio de Janeiro - and a city on the banks of the Amazon. We'll be talking to some opinionated musicians and seeing how local youth are using carnival to spread their message about rights, respect and equal relationships.

In the UK today, women's rights don't always get the best press. I've been taking part in events for International Women's Day for a number of years and it's surprising how much contempt will show when you explain what the day's all about. Many people find it hard to talk about feminism without seeing it as a negative rather than a positive, a destructive rather than a constructive set of beliefs. They wonder how they can impact the lives of people on the other side of the world and often end up thinking it's too much hassle to bother with.

Despite the negativity, it's my greatest wish that through projects like Bollocks to Inequality, through attending events, getting involved and taking a stand we can really get people talking about gender equality and discussing just why it's so important. It's a worldwide issue, it affects us all and it's worth fighting for. Over the next nine days I'll be keeping you updated on what we get up to in Brazil and how it shows just why equality matters. You'll also be able to read the latest on what we're doing on the ActionAid blog or via the #bollockstoinequality hashtag on Twitter.

This post originally appeared at BitchBuzz. Image via Cyro A Silva's Flickr.


Adele @ THOMASSENLAND said...

I hope you have a fantastic time Hannah.x

Tamsin said...

I'm so glad you've got this opportunity. I hope it's amazing x


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