I’m a 24 year old woman. I was born in Switzerland, but have spent the rest of my life here in the UK. I don’t have children. I’m not married. And I feel no social or cultural pressure to undertake these things. The geography of my birth means that the choices I make with my life are my own. Not those of my family, or community, or anyone else. I feel safe.
Aroti lives in Bangladesh and is also 24. At the age of 17 she embarked on a marriage which is already over because of the horrendous physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband. Now Aroti makes her home with her parents again. And as a single, pregnant woman, she was ostracized by her community.
Practical Action works closely with some of the world’s poorest people, helping them to use simple technology to fight poverty and injustice, building a better, more beautiful world. We have been in Bangladesh’s Magura district since 2007, helping the most marginalised of people – like Aroti – to learn new skills and use new tools to enable them to earn proper livings.
Aroti was already a talented dressmaker when we met her so we helped her to buy a sewing machine. This tool meant Aroti was able to sew her way to a better life. She developed relationships with local shops and established a strong foothold in the local market. We trained Aroti on business skills such as accountancy and marketing. Now her business is more successful than ever, with her monthly income as much as £32. She is happier and safer now than she has ever been. Her economic empowerment means that for the first time she has control over her own body and her own life.
Of course Aroti is just one person. According to the UN, 47% of Bangladesh’s women endure domestic violence, rape and even murder due to the dominance of the patriarchal systems. There are so many more women who need the skills and tools to make independent livings so they are not compelled to remain in dangerous relationships. But it doesn’t just stop there. We need to advocate at the very highest levels – until the world is a place where violence from women is socially unacceptable. Where rape of a woman by her husband is illegal everywhere. A world where it’s as safe to be a woman as it is to be a man.