Home > Feature Top Home page > A week of highs and lows: Rejoice in women like Maya Angelou | By Caroline Graham

A week of highs and lows: Rejoice in women like Maya Angelou | By Caroline Graham


Last week was a week of real highs and lows for women – a week that shows how much progress women have made in breaking down barriers and reaching the greatest heights, yet women are still suffering the most heinous acts of aggression and hatred, often suffering at the hands of those closest to them.

As we mourn the loss of American Author and Poet Maya Angelou, women around the world have taken to social media to celebrate the life and death of this amazing woman. Facebook and Twitter have been flooded with words written by a woman who overcame the worst horrors a child could face growing up, to become one of the most respected black writers and human rights activists of our time.

There can’t be many young girls who haven’t read ‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ (1969) during which Maya tells the story of her early childhood up until the age of 17 which brought her international acclaim. This recognition later led her to be invited to recite her poem, ‘On the Pulse of Morning‘ at Bill Clinton’s inauguration (1993) – the first person to make an inaugural recitation since John F Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. It’s no wonder that Oprah Winfrey speaks so warmly of her, referring to Maya as mentor-mother-sister-friend.

There are too many quotes to choose from, many which genuinely bring tears to the eyes. A personal favourite of mine:

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option”

So inspirational. So courageous.

Yet on the other side of the world in India this week, two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh from a lower caste previously known as ‘Untouchables’, were gang-raped and hung from a tree. That men can be so cruel and barbaric to attack two young women in the prime of their lives is beyond imagination. Words cannot do this outrage justice. Adding to this injury is that two police officers allegedly refused to investigate the incident after the girls’ families reported them missing. In their pain in finding their children, families and friends sat beneath the tree in protest refusing to let the bodies be taken down until the police were held to account.

Every institution in this country is biased, so where do we go?

Beena Pallical of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, said members of these communities suffer in many ways when attacks like this take place. Firstly there is the assault itself and then there is often the unwillingness to investigate the matter. “This is a never ending circle, she said, “Every institution in this country is biased, so where do we go?”

Sadly this story was not the only horror against women to hit the news this week. In Pakistan a young woman was stoned to death on a busy street in Lahore by her father and other members of her family who were enraged that she had married the man she loved. According to reports, the police stood by and did nothing to intervene (although this is now being refuted by the police who say they did not witness the attack).

Let’s rejoice in women like Maya Angelou and hope that more people read her words and learn from her wisdom.

Tragically honor killings like this are all too common in Pakistan where more than 800 women have reportedly been targeted in the past two years. The actual figure is probably much higher since many cases go unreported. This particular attack however seems more chilling. This woman was killed for defying her father and marrying for love. This is 2014 – why is this still happening? The Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has rightly condemned this tragedy, and residents in Lahore are holding protests on the street, yet family members thought it was their right to kill this woman and passers-by did nothing to stop it happening.

maya-angelouWomen have made so much progress, often like Maya Angelou, overcoming abuse and extreme poverty, to becoming international role models exuding strength, compassion and courage. Yet women are still being held back by barbaric men trapped in a medieval era who use violence and anger to mask their own weaknesses and insecurities.

Let’s rejoice in women like Maya Angelou and hope that more people read her words and learn from her wisdom.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you make them feel.” Maya Anjelou.

To listen to Maya Angelou reciting her inspirational poem, ‘Still I Rise’, see here

Caroline Graham
Editor WeAreTheCity India
@WATC_India @CarolineTwicks

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