A while ago, whilst travelling to London by train I was confronted with this advert:
The advert forced me to consider a terrifying alternative to the life I have led. I am a white, British woman and I come from a working-class background. I am not wealthy but that does not mean to say I am not privileged. I have the right to an education. I have the right to vote. I have the right to voice my opinion. These are all privileges I often take for granted.
I remember being twelve, I remember how embarrassing and confusing puberty was. I remember going to school and enjoying my lessons. I remember being told I could achieve anything, as long as I worked hard enough. I cannot fathom the idea that instead of enrolling me in to mainstream education, my parents would force me to marry an older man at the age of twelve. Twelve. It is a terrifying prospect to me now, at the age of twenty-three. To me, it sounds like the most archaic of situations, but according to Plan UK it happens to 14 million girls a year, all of whom are under the age of 18. That’s 27 girls a minute. That’s one girl every 2 seconds.
It is not just the threat of forced marriage that young girls across the globe have to deal with. A girl’s right to an education is still a highly controversial issue in many countries. A horrific example of how far some people will go to stunt this initiative happened just last year. Sixteen year old Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai was shot in the face by the Taliban for defending girl’s educational rights in October 2012. Fortunately she survived and has used the publicity from the brutal attack as a platform to further promote her belief that every girl has the right to an education.
When I saw Plan UK’s advert on the train that evening, it was a sad reminder that equality for women is still a universally unsolved issue. I am ashamed to admit that if it weren’t for the advertisement, I probably wouldn’t know about the severe sexism and social injustice girls and women across the globe are suffering. As an ex-media A Level student I have some understanding of how charity advertisements are put together, so I know that the poster purposefully uses an emotive image and emotive language in order to provoke an emotional reaction from the target audience (women). Even so, the advert has stayed with me because of the story it tells, not because of the media language it uses.
I define myself as a feminist. I am not a particularly militant or active one, as my views do not reach the widest of circles. I sign petitions and I follow online campaigns. Being a feminist means supporting women’s rights and women’s equality on a universal scale. For anyone that ever questions whether or not we still need feminism: remember this advert. If we support charities like Plan UK, we can help to ensure that girls like Aneni and Malala will eventually achieve the rights that many women in the western world take for granted: The right to exercise control over their own body, to achieve an education and the opportunity to lead their own life.
The advert has convinced me and thousands of other women to donate. You can too by texting the number on the advert or donating to the website.