Seaweed may not mean much to you. For most of us it’s just that gross, slimy stuff we try and avoid in the sea, or occasionally enjoy as part of a sushi roll. However, to a group of women in Zanzibar seaweed is the heroine they desperately needed. It has been heralded as a beacon of hope and an unexpected weapon of feminism. The female-driven economy which has been created by these women not only is credited with innovation but also with the establishment of an important shift in the balance of power between sexes.
Living in our own sexist society, which pales in comparison to many others, it is easy to forget the extent to which chauvinism continues to exist. In communities such as these, women are effectively prisoners in their own homes. They are not only banned from any form of work, instead being given the tasks associated with domesticity, but are only permitted to leave the house for occasions such as weddings, funerals or unwell relatives. Unsurprisingly, the women’s initiative was met with heavy male resistance, with threats of divorce being common. However, when the economic benefits of their work became clear they were permitted to continue.
While I am impressed, for once, with mainstream news for broadcasting what most would call a story of success, I am simultaneously disheartened that this would count as news. I, like many others, often take my rights as a woman for granted in a society which is still incredibly flawed. I am not saying I am grateful for the attempt at equality we are witnessing, rather I am heavily critical of it, so much that I am satisfied. We, not as women but as people, should not be satisfied, but we should be grateful for the progress that has been made. Progress which is credited to the relentless and brave efforts of women, not men.
This ‘news’ is a clear example of that. It terrifies me that communities such as these continue to survive, isolated within a world which is demanding improvement and evolution. It is so important for us not to become too insular in our approach, focusing on the comparatively trivial problems instead of the larger, global issue. It is so important for us to not forget about small communities in which women still struggle with sexism which we have forced to become outdated, leaving them behind in another era. We need to praise, celebrate and encourage these women to not only strive for more but achieve it. These women, to me, are inspirational and am so impressed with their bravery and determination. I hope they can inspire women from all societies, races and cultures to fight for they want, whilst also reminding them of how much there is still to be done.