I live at Newington Green, which became the home of English Dissenters during the 17th Century and beyond. These were free-thinking people who challenged conventional ideas. So I seem to have ended up in the right place.
The famous Unitarian Church still stands on the little Green, one of our local pubs is called The Dissenting Academy and the area has associations with too many famous and unconventional people to mention here. Among them John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodists and Thomas Cooper, the Leicester Chartist. He actually lived in my house, though of course it was his house then.
Among the important and influential residents of the Green was Mary Wollstonecraft, author of ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’. When I was researching Mary’s life I was rather pleased to see that before she wrote ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ she had actually written ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Men’ as well. Now this was a pamphlet in support of republicanism, agrarian socialism and religious tolerance, among other things. She wasn’t arguing the case for men, as such. In contrast to ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women which, in very broad terms, argues for women’s education and maintains that they deserve the same fundamental rights as men.
However, it makes a nice link (albeit a little contrived). Because, while I am a great believer in supporting and advocating the cause of women, I also believe that in doing this we should welcome and encourage those men who are on our side. I don’t believe in man-bashing. I doubt that Mary W was anti man either. Nevertheless, without in any way diminishing the suffering of individual men, in general women still get a really raw deal. They still come off worse overall. Much worse.
Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Currently India is in the news and many Arab States too have an abusive culture. But it’s not really fair to pick out just two cultures, as the problem is endemic. Indeed we’ve still a long way to go here in the UK – we’ve plenty to improve on. Did you know that more than two women are killed by current or ex-partners every week? And that one in four women in the UK will experience domestic violence in their lifetime?
This year, International Women’s Day is on Friday 8th March. It will be celebrated throughout the world. Because it is a celebration – a celebration of all that has been achieved so far. It’s also a fundraiser with the aim of helping women throughout the world gain their independence and live in safety. And it’s an awareness raising exercise, to remind those of us who already know and to educate those who are still ignorant of some of the appalling things that are going on. And that continue to go on away from the spotlight of the media, that continue when the journalists and the media have packed their bags and left.
From Afghanistan to Australia. Darlington to Delhi. The world will be celebrating on 8th March. Go onto the Facebook Page to see what’s happening and how you can join in. Take part in Oxfam’s ‘Get Together’ campaign (I’ll be writing more about that in a week or so). If we all do just a little bit, we can all make the violence stop.