As part of our #NotThisGirl appeal, star of Coronation Street Sally Dynevor writes about the injustices girls worldwide face and what she hopes will be achieved for the next generation.
“I am a mother of three wonderful kids – two daughters and a son. I’ve brought them up to believe in their rights and that they are as valuable as each other, whatever their gender. I want the world they inherit to be equal, where no one has to face violence or injustice simply because of their gender.
I’ve been reflecting on this recently more than usual, amid the #MeToo movement, which is showing just how many women – in the UK and around the world – face harassment, sexual violence and other abuses of power.
The character I play in Coronation Street, Sally Metcalfe, has herself survived domestic violence and online harassment and I’ll always be proud of having brought those issues to people through the soap. But my brief, pretend experience of the problem makes me all the more angry when I read about the women who face violence around the world.
Calling for change
It can be hard as a mum to expose your kids to these issues, but I’ve always tried to show my children how women and girls face discrimination around the world and that it’s our job, as feminists, to support their calls for change. Several years ago, when my daughter Phoebe was just 12, she and I were lucky enough to travel to India to meet Reena – one of two girls in India whom our family has sponsored through ActionAid.
On that trip, we learned how girls like Reena – born into poverty – often miss out on getting an education altogether because their families have to choose between sending them to school or work. This locks girls into poverty for life. It also leads to societies where women aren’t valued and can’t contribute their talents as much as men.
I’ll never forget Reena’s dad telling me he had always wanted his daughters to go to school, but poverty had held them back. ActionAid’s sponsorship programme helped Reena go to school and claim her right to an education – and a bright future.
That trip taught Phoebe and I just how much girls everywhere are on the sharp end of poverty and exclusion. And now, #MeToo is showing clearly how sexual violence is another part of the problem. All over the world, abuses like harassment, FGM, forced marriage and rape also stop women and girls from claiming their rights.
In Kenya, one in three girls experience sexual violence during childhood – of these, less than 10% receive any professional help. Take Patience, for example, a single mother whose daughter was attacked by an older man in their community in Nairobi. Patience said that after the attack, she felt “that I have no power because I’m poor – anyone can do anything to my children.” Her words are heart-breaking – and they expose the scandalous injustices faced by women and girls living in poverty.
Seeing positive results
But things are changing. In Kenya, India, and other countries worldwide, women and girls are banding together to say no to sexual violence.
Patience herself has become a women’s rights defender. With the support of ActionAid and its partners on the ground, she gives emergency help to girls and women who face attacks. Thanks to her and women like her, her community knows that harassment, discrimination and sexual violence aren’t something that their daughters must simply inherit.
This is the world that I want to pass on to my kids. A world where together, we fight back against violence and gender discrimination. Where we hear those courageous woman and girls who are shouting #MeToo around the world. And where we all agree that no girl, anywhere, deserves to suffer violence.”
ActionAid’s Not This Girl appeal runs until 7 June. Give today and your donation will be doubled, pound for pound, by the UK government through the Aid Match scheme. This means your donation will have double the impact.
With your help, we’ll be able to reach twice as many mums and daughters, like Patience and Mary, who are in need of support.
Photo credits: Sheldon Moultrie/ActionAid