Like most of the world I had been watching and celebrating Mandela’s life, and grieving for his passing, over this past week. As I have been watching snippets of the past oppressions and violence I’m grateful that so much has moved forward.
One of the things that struck me though, while thinking about the inequalities of black and white opportunities, is the imbalance of gender representation. In the Memorial service, I only saw one woman speak – his granddaughter (there may have been others I didn’t see the whole thing), and seeing leaders from around the world, the vast majority of which are men.
It seems to me that somehow the global injustices of women are being ignored. The oppression of women in so many countries is shocking, yet hardly spoken about, almost taken for granted. That is one of the characteristics of privilege, that when you have it, it can be almost invisible, but when you don’t have it you either yearn for it, or you don’t even belief it is possible for this to be present in your own life. Like many of us take for granted the invisible privilege of having clean safe drinking water, many men are not aware of the privilege and opportunities they have available to them that are not freely accessible to women. How many men consider it a privilege to be able to walk without fear through their city at night?
I wonder when the day will come when we look back at headlines from the past, showing the frequencies of rape, abuse and violence of women, and are equally shocked that they once existed, and can celebrate that they are no longer present. The day when a gathering of world leaders is truly representative of the diversity of colour, beliefs and gender in the world.
This day cannot come through the actions of one person alone, we all have to change our thinking and change our actions. This is not just a story for women alone to change. There is hurt and pain from men and women about this, we all carry wounds from the injustices we see around us. Like Mandela, who found a way of moving forward, without just placing the blame on the oppressor, we need to acknowledge the wounds we all carry. We need to find a way forward that doesn’t turn the oppressed into the oppressor, that doesn’t give women power over men, but finds a way for power with.
We all need to speak our truth and believe that we can live in a world of equality, so that in our daily actions we can begin to manifest around us what we would like to see in the world.