Holly's Story

I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember. I’ve always admired women leaders, and relished opportunities to work with them, or simply to know them, and certainly to learn from them. I’ve always been outraged at the injustices that women everywhere face – in all of their manifestations, here and around the world.

When I really break it down, my outrage comes from being in a perpetual state of shock at the fact that patriarchy – well, exists. I was brought up knowing that I had rights and that my opinions were valid, and that they were worth expressing. I grew up truly believing that I could be whatever I wanted to be.(Thanks mum). I took those notions as truth, and assumed that all women everywhere could do what they wanted and needed to do, and could be what they wanted to be. Why wouldn’t that be the case?

So it was quite extraordinary for me to discover that actually, there are deeply entrenched systems and attitudes that stand in the way of women from being free to make their own choices. That stop them from participating in decision making, or leading their communities. That prevent them from earning the money they need, or to be respected, listened to, and recognised for the work they do. It still astounds me.

Through my work with ActionAid, I’ve been really fortunate to have met incredible women taking action in their communities to tear down those systems and challenge those attitudes. Polly, who has done all she can to support the women in her community in eastern Uganda to take action to claim their rights to land and productive resources. Sabita, who has ensured that her community in Bangladesh is as safe from and prepared for disasters as they can be – by leading the way and supporting other women to find their voices in decision making processes. Halima – who has fought back against those who have robbed her community of its land, leaving them only with broken promises.

I’ve learnt so much from women working to create change. The greatest thing I’ve learnt is that women are powerful. When they work together, women can create enormous change, for themselves and those around them.

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