A blog post

For those with no Valentine.

Posted on the 15 February, 2016 at 6:44 pm Written by in Blog




Happy Valentine’s!

Whether you’ve been showered with sweet smelling flowers and luscious gifts by your significant other or you spent it eating gallons of ice cream with your girls I hope you had a great one. Whilst many can’t wait to spoil and be spoilt by that special man or woman in their lives on the increasingly commercialised Valentine’s Day, others are less than enamoured with it. Many singletons have become champion dodgeball players, swerving the balls of pity friends, family and even complete strangers often throw. Anyone who’s been single at any point of their adult life will be familiar with the unabated nagging from the annoying Aunty who warns of the dangers of being ‘left on the shelf’. Or the unsolicited advice from the three times married friend who consider themselves the pinnacle of success for being able to march a succession of men down the aisle. As women in the western world we are far from free of the stifles of male hegemony and a patriarchal system which links the value of women to their desirability to, or success with, men. However in some parts of the world our sisters are under assault from a particularly extreme manifestation of this ideology. The tortuous existence of widowers in some parts of India has been well documented. Women from poorer less educated communities in India who have lost their husbands, may be ostracised, and cast out. To add to the trauma of losing their husbands they become pariahs in their community, regarded as symbols of bad luck and omens of impending doom. There are women within rural areas of African countries who are also subjected to the same ill treatment as they lose their status of married woman and become widows. In many cases they are accused of being responsible for their husband’s death.

Many of these women who are now being demonised for losing their husbands to death were pushed into marriage in the first place. CEFM (Children, early and forced marriage) is a devastating and destructive practice that is harming women and girls all around the world. The figures are heart rending. 1 in 9 girl children will be married before they reach the age of 15. And 1 in 3 will be married before they are 18.   Birth related deaths and HIV are leading causes of death for girls between 15 and 19.

However it’s not all gloom and doom, there is a nascent consciousness rising in communities who are realising that things don’t have to be this way. Thousands protested on the streets of Kolda in Senegal where nearly half the girls will be married before they turn 18. A number of countries such as Ghana, Nepal and Zambia have put national strategies in place to challenge CEFM.2015 saw the first Africa Girls’ Summit where child marriage was recognised as a priority for Africa’s development agenda.

Education changes lives.

A Unicef report revealed 63 million of primary school and lower secondary school girls to be out of school in 2013. Girls who continue their education into adolescence are less likely to contract HIV, less likely to be part of CEFM, and less likely to die in childbirth. Girls in education are more likely to have healthy babies, to send their own children to school and have a higher earning power.

If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that tackling poverty is a feminist issue more than half the girls in Bangladesh, and Mozambique will become child brides and in the same country 75% of the people live on less than 1 pound a day. The issues facing these girls and women are strongly linked to  poor education and impoverished living conditions rather than culture or religion.

An article entitled  ‘Women dare to defy the harsh rules of widowhood’ highlighted the courageous efforts of women who refused to wear the shackles their cultural norms would have dictated of single women. ‘Vinita’, a widow from India, contracted HIV from her husband before he died of AIDS. She is now a teacher and counsels young women on the perils of CEFM. “Jyotu” a 23 year old widow refused to partake in the obligatory traditions such as becoming vegetarian and giving up bright clothes associated with mourning after she lost her husband. She now works at a non profit organisation and is the sole financial provider for herself and her son.

Whether you are completely free and unattached or blissfully married to the man of your dreams, let’s stand in solidarity with our sisters around the globe. Defending each other’s right to be free and live whole, healthy and happy lives free from persecution and marginalisation irrespective of our marital status.