News

“I am a Gender Equality activist”, Axam 24 years old

15 August 2018

One of the main reasons why I am addressing gender equality through my work is because I have had two very strong figures in my upbringing: my mother and my grandmother.

My mother has shown the strength of a woman all her life and she did so when she worked to provide for us, against all odds, while she took care of me and my little brother without my dad being involved. And the second person is my grandmother, who has had 12 children of her own but effectively you can say that she has raised an entire community.

The reason why I want to work against the patriarchy is the toxic masculinity. Because I would rather live in a society where women and girls can walk on the streets at night without being catcalled, without being harassed. I would rather live in a society where they can do whatever they want to without being told how to do it by men.

I have a little sister, she is 9 years old now, and to be honest the reason why I am a gender equality activist, even though I am an Olympic level procrastinator, is because I would rather see her growing up in the society I want to create.

I want to tackle this issue rather than leaving it to awareness, rather than leaving it to pamphlets, to flyers and TV adds. I don’t mean “tackling” literally, I mean figuratively, I want to handle it from its source: men. I want to talk to them, I want to talk to the boys who are still growing up but one day will be making decisions.

I feel that the society wouldn’t go forward if there is a huge limitation, such as one gender telling the other gender not to do certain things with power - a power that is not necessarily earned - being used against another group of people, a minority in this sense. But when I say minority I don’t mean in numbers, I mean in the rights they hold.

I feel that when you have a society that stunts itself, you are not hurting the people you are overpowering, you are actually hurting yourself in the process.

You are showing yourself to the world, you are showing your entire community that you are limited to certain boundaries. Self-expression is a key issue and it needs to be addressed. Because if we live in a world where men aren’t allowed to become emotional or to cry, how do you tell your daughters that it is okay to be emotional, how do you tell your sons that it is okay to trust you?

This is the kind of society that I would like to build, the place that is a safe space when you go home.

Women are not going out late at night. I found hilarious that we are allowing people to attack other people during any time of the day, if you think about it. Because that is the problem, that is what we need to handle, we need to start by working with the people who are causing this issue.

Domestic violence is mostly perpetrated by men.

Of course there are women who perpetrate violence against men, women against women, men against men, these issues are there but it’s all caused because of that toxicity in the community. It all starts when the father himself decides whatever needs to be done, it is a sense of respect that you can give but at the end of the day…are you trying to build a stronger father or a stronger son?

***

Gender equality is a human right. Women are entitled to live with dignity and with freedom from want and from fear. Gender equality is also a precondition for advancing development and reducing poverty: Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities, and they improve prospects for the next generation.

Still, despite solid evidence demonstrating the centrality of women’s empowerment to realizing human rights, reducing poverty, promoting development and addressing the world’s most urgent challenges, gender equality remains an unfulfilled promise.

For more than 30 years, UNFPA has advocated for women and girls, promoting legal and policy reforms and gender-sensitive data collection, and supporting initiatives that improve women's and girls' health and expand their choices in life. In Maldives, UNFPA is proud to have created safe spaces for youth while provided trainings on gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence, etc., to this new generation as they pursue the change they wish to see in the world.

Text & Photos ©Tatiana Almeida/UNFPA Maldives