I am a feminist.
This doesn't make me hairy, aggressive, man-hating and emotion-driven. I am a feminist because I believe that in any rational, moral, and ethical society, a woman is, and ought to be treated as an equal member.
Women in developing countries experience gender discrimination every single day, but it wasn't until I worked as an intern at the Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development in Kolkata, India that I had first-hand exposure to women who were subjected to physical, sexual, emotional, financial, psychological and institutional abuse and discrimination. I saw the diverse hardships faced by the women, such as stories of single income households lead by women whose husbands were lost to conflict or drugs, on top of the pains and vulnerabilities that they already endure because of poor access to hygiene, sanitation and nutrition.
I don't speak Hindi or Bengali, but the sheer injustice of their pain transgressed these language barriers.
It filled me with such an immense gratitude for how fortunate I am, as although I have Sri Lankan (Tamil) heritage, which is traditionally an extremely patriarchal society, I was raised by a family of incredibly strong women and given so many opportunities.
The experience also gave me an immense sense of responsibility to commit to making the world a fairer place for women. I am a law student, and my ambition is to contribute to breaking the glass ceiling and bridging the gap between men and women.
Even as a woman in one of the worlds most developed nations I am very aware that sexism is still a reality in our society, and yet women who speak up about it are often titled aggressive feminists.This is because the key to a successful patriarchy is a divide and conquer strategy that pits women against each other while men collaborate to achieve their goals.
I had the privilege of being an ActionAid Australia intern for a year in 2015, and have formed a lifelong friendship with the organisation. I believe that by uniting through ActionAid, women (and men) can work together to achieve and to celebrate women's progress in the pursuit of equality. Gender equality isn't just a "woman's issue", it is something that every society needs in order to survive and thrive.
As an empowered woman and a proud ActionAid campaigner, I choose to work in solidarity with and for women, because that's what we need to achieve equality.
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