When we are born we aren’t aware of our surroundings, equality, our gender, our financial status or even our social standing.
We are only focused on one thing, survival.
Survival is a basic instinct in all of us. The sink or swim analogy. The fight or flight response. We all have what’s needed for survival. Regardless of our environment.
As women, I’m sure we can all share our stories of survival. It could be in a physical altercation, or it could be an environmental shift. But the key element that we all share is that we did it. We survived.
I know myself that I’ve had many elements in my life where basic survival was my only option. Whether I knew it or not.
As a child, I went from a privileged child in an upper class world, to the child of a single mother living on the breadline practically overnight. I didn’t notice much then, but what I did notice was my mother, working jobs to make ends meet. A woman who worked diligently from her teens to her 30s so she could enjoy her motherhood without sacrifice. Like many of you, she never had that luxury.
Surviving on tiny morsels a day, she always made sure there were fruits and vegetables on my plate every day. She always made sure I’d never go to bed hungry. And she always made sure I was the same inquisitive child with the stubborn nature I was born with.
I was never aware of an attainment gap that young. I didn’t know that technically I grew up in one. I thrived on education. In fact, it was probably my saving grace. My survival instinct.
I knew from that young that my gift of knowledge was just that, a gift. And I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.
As an adult I set out what I conquered to do. To get my degree, in fact I got two of them. I surrounded myself in education because it gave me the comfort that every line I read would put me in good stead for the future. And even though I can be a dab hand at University Challenge, I knew it would have a greater good.
When you are involved in activism you aren’t just opened to the world of gender pay gaps, LGBTQ+ issues, racial bias and such. You are violently and painfully aware of the general education gap in women. We hear every day about the need for women in specific industries, STEM for example, which I am grateful to call myself a woman in STEM research. But we never hear of the stepping stones that are put in place for women to get to these elusive industries.
Right now this platform I have is my power. My belief in education rights has led me down a path of pure activism and I am committed to helping women in Scotland achieve the skills and development tools they need to not only begin their careers, but make an impact in their own communities.
This starts right on our doorstep. Spreading the knowledge that education is power. And with power comes survival. We are all here because we survived. Now it is our collective opportunity to raise attainment levels in all areas of the country.
I was once told that if I didn’t have a seat at the table, or it wasn’t offered to me, then I should bring my own chair.
Well now I am building a new table. And you can guarantee that my passion for education is firmly on it.
We are the architects of our own future. And we owe it to our younger generations to make this basic right accessible for them. Because we don’t know what the future will hold for our daughters, but if we give them the right tools to survive, we can be sure they will make this world more beautiful than it is today.
So the question is, how do we do this? How do we correct years of ignorance and disdain?
As I said, it starts on our doorstep.
We have to change the narrative that is portrayed on our sisters that we are limited by our gender. That we are weak and feeble creatures who’s only saving grace is having to be liked by men. We have to show our daughters that they can be in control of their future, regardless of a male approval.
We have to take control on issues that affect us. And not leave it in the hands of a dystopian society that feels it has a monopoly on women’s reproductive rights and their health. Showing women that yes, it is okay to stand up for what you want and need as a basic right in this world. Standing in solidarity with your sisters when one is being denied healthcare yet her male counterpart is joyfully prescribed drugs to help with his sexual performance.
We have to understand why we are constantly sexualised in the media, and only valued by our features and figures, rather than your brains and ideas.
One of my favourite quotes from a woman I love is from Denice Frohman. She told us that a woman becomes herself for the first time when she speaks without permission. And every world out of her mouth, a riot. When a girl pronounces her own name there is glory. And when a woman tells her own story, she lives forever.
We owe our voice to our sisters of the revolution. Rejoice. As we have only just begun.
Written by Mollie Rose Houston Netwomen ambassador.