Is there a more valuable network than the web of soul-sisters that at once roots us within our worlds and protects us from it? Let’s go beyond the finger-clicking, head-shaking stereotypes. I’m talking about the ordinary women, the ones who quietly strengthen us.
In a world where one in three women will experience some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime, this network of female friendship aids survival. Amnesty International regards violence against women as both “a consequence of and a cause of inequality between men and women.” In case you wondered, this is just one reason we should all be celebrating International Women’s Day 2016 and the women who make us stronger in the face of adversity.
Images via Flickr Creative Commons
At some point, we’ve all taken the women in our lives for granted, or underestimated their power. But, looking back you will recognise the depth of these relationships, trace their influences on your own journey and be grateful. I certainly am. That network of female support is like a finely crafted bird’s nest. Built around each of our worlds, it gives us foundations, incubates potential and cultivates independent women.
These nests are not exclusive, they have an open door policy. No matter your gender, sexual preference or race, everyone should have the opportunity to indulge in their warmth. Some people have a ready-made circle of women in their family tree, others are built organically, foraged from school, workplaces past and present, and chance encounters that defy expectations with their blossoming fruits. They could span multiple continents, but distance doesn’t demean their quality.
Images via Flickr Creative Commons
Of course, every woman forms the center of her own, bespoke nest. Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, once said: “A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” She’s right. Sadly, a third of the world’s women will have hot water thrust upon them in the form of gender-based violence. The UK police receive a call about domestic violence every minute – and Women’s Aid say only 24 per cent of cases are actually reported.
For those fortunate enough to have a strong web of women around them, they have an immeasurable resource, they have support. They don’t need to push themselves to the limit. Tight female friendship is almost an acknowledgment of our human ‘weaknesses’. It is an admittance that we need others and more importantly, that it is okay. I can’t help but think that some of our male counterparts would be less likely to fall into the cycle of abuse if they too could accept their mortal weaknesses.
Using friendship to support domestic abuse survivors
Unfortunately, many women who encounter domestic violence are isolated, they’re often cut off from their friends or avoid social situations. They’re dealing with a mix of emotions that make them feel alone – shame, guilt or worthlessness. These are the women who most need a sisterhood, to help them transition from victim to survivor. As the inspirational Malala Yousafzai once said “I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up”. Our role in this transformation counts.
There are scores of fantastic organisations dedicated to protecting women, providing refuge and reaching out to those who simply need to talk. You can support some of these organisations by clicking on the links below. But the most important thing we can do, is continue to be kind to the women in our lives, sensitive to their needs and empower them in all that they do. The world has so much to gain from a strong, healthy and happy sisterhood.
- Refuge: Opened the world’s first safe house for women and children escaping domestic violence. It continues to provide life-saving services protecting against and preventing domestic violence. Donate.
- Women’s Aid : A grassroots federation working to keep women and children safe, provide life-saving services and build a future where domestic violence is not tolerated. Donate.Refuge and Women’s Aid run a joint 24 hr National Domestic Violence helpline: 0808 2000 247