At my job this week, I got to help with a big college women student leaders conference. One of the speakers today was Naomi Tutu, a leader and activist in her own right, and one of the daughters of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (a Nobel Peace Prize winner etc). During a Q&A after she spoke to the students, one person asked what inspires her when she’s tired and doesn’t have the energy to get out of bed and face another battle that day. Naomi said she thinks of the women who came before her (like her mother and grandmother who had harder lives than she but had the strength to persevere) and the women who will come after her. She said she has two daughters and that the human rights work she does is so that her daughters will be able to walk anywhere they want and still be safe. The audience burst into applause.
On days when I feel discouraged, those are the women who I think of as well — all the women who came before me who fought hard for the rights I enjoy today, and the women who will come after me. If I ever have a daughter and a son, I want to know I’ve done all I can to make sure that the daughter has the same freedom to move about in public spaces as her brother.
If women cannot be safe or free from harassment in public (or private spheres, which is another but related story altogether) there will never be equality. It is the right of each of us to be safe in public.