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International Women’s Day 2020

I am a person who is proud of my intersectional identity as a black, Muslim woman. Our patriarchal society sometimes makes it hard for these identities to exist in harmony in education, work and wider society.  Intersectionality has created a new conversation about non-white women’s experience, to the point where class, sexuality and various form of identity have become a focal point of the conversation on social equality. As a black woman, intersectionality is the theoretical framework for comprehending how social and political identities merge to create unique forms of discrimination. Kimberley Crenshaw was the ground-breaking academic who developed the idea of intersectionality and advocated for a deeper understanding of the complex experiences of non-white women that were often not mutually exclusive, but connected and intersectional.

Bell Hooks, one of my favourite feminist writers, once said ‘all women are white and all blacks are men’, highlighting the idea that black women are ignored from both identities and are not considered in either feminist and race conversations. Being a black woman in today’s society can be straining, in particular within the professional field. I have many friends who face microaggressions, unconscious bias on a daily basis. The question I ask myself is that; are we beautifying the word racism by using words such as microaggressions and unconscious bias? Furthermore, how do we address these uncomfortable conversations? For women of colour, we are always having to find coping mechanism to deal with different stereotypes on a daily basis, which can be very much draining.

Moving forward, history has taught us that changes can happen through collective activism. It’s 2020 and we are still advocating for equal pay, girl’s education, access to resources, political rights and an end to gender-based violence. This year’s Marhch4Women 2020 centres around the themes of gender equality and climate change. Many people may not realise how similar these two movement are. Many of victims of climate change are women. I will focus more closer to home. When it comes to climate change, it has been well documented that the African continent will be hit the hardest. Many millions of people across the continent are very reliant on rainfall to grow their food and many subsistence farmers are woman. Therefore, weather related disasters like drought and floods make it even harder for families to survive. We know this because it is a recurring disaster across Horn of Africa particularly Somalia.

Women are at a greater risk when weather related disasters occur. Official statistics have shown women and children are fourteen times more likely to die during disasters. Moreover, women and girls are more at risk of sexual violence and exploitation especially during times of famine when families flee their homes. Therefore it’s important, now more than ever, to think deeper about how the solutions for our climate problems will directly improve or disadvantage life chances for our women and children. Although I welcome the theme of climate change in the same sphere as Gender equality on International Women’s Day, I still believe we have a long way to go in achieving gender equality and our climate change goals. More awareness needs to be placed on the vulnerable women who are at a greater risk of both gender inequality and climate change, ie, in many developing countries. Until we are specific and highlight the particular groups who are affected the most, ie women who are voiceless, we will not achieve our desired objectives.

It is my hope that on this International Women’s Day, we collectively recommit to honouring all women particularly those who face additional vulnerabilities due to their intersectionality.