This month I am focusing on reading the ARCs that I have on my bookshelf – it is #arcaugust on bookstagram and people are sharing the stories that they have received to read and review. This morning, I decided to pick up a memoir that interests me: A Good Wife by Samra Zafar. I stood in line at the OLA Super Conference early on in the year to receive a signed copy of the galley. The book was available in stores from March 2019.
At seventeen, Samra Zafar had to leave her family behind in Pakistan and move to Canada when she married a stranger. In the years that followed, she suffered her husband’s physical and emotional abuse. Desperate to get out and refusing to give up, she hatched an escape plan for her and her daughters. Somehow she found the strength to not only build a new future, but to walk away from her past, ignoring the pleas of her family and risking cultural isolation by divorcing her husband.
I am a couple of chapters in, and already my eyes have been opened to practices that I had not really accepted still exist.
I am a woman living in Western society. I have the right to open a bank account; the right to own a house or a piece of land. I have the right to work; and the right to travel on my own, unchaperoned. I have the right to read and write; and the right to go to university. I have the right to vote; and the right to stand for government office.
But it was not always so.
Fighting for the right to vote came to be known as Women’s Suffrage. This term includes, as well, the right of women to run for political office. Can you imagine living in a time when you could not vote to help make a decision that your country was to take? Or living in a time when you could not support a candidate who stood for what you believed in? There was a time when all government decisions were made by a minority of men; and a time in which the views of women would not be heard.
How did women fight for their rights? They marched, they spoke out at mass meetings to other women, they created stunts to shock the public and make them speak about the voting issue, they canvassed for support – but were not violent.
Women all over the world did not receive the right to vote at the same time. It is interesting to look at the timeline, and see that in 1718 in Sweden, a select group of women were given the vote (these women were taxpayers) – and that these rights were later taken away from them. The United Kingdom gave a small group of women the vote in 1869; and in 1928 all women received the right to vote and take part in electioneering.
Most women have only received the right to vote in the 20th century. In countries like the United States and Canada, states and provinces gave women these rights one at a time. One would think that in the 21st century all countries would have allowed women to exercise this right. However we can see that Kuwait gave women voting rights only in 2005; while the United Arab Emirates gave limited women the vote, afterwards extending it to all. In 2015, we look forward to the women in Saudi Arabia voting for the first time and putting their ballots in the ballot boxes.
The women’s suffrage movement did not only give women the right to vote. It also gave women a voice and showed them that they have the right to have the same expectations as men. With women’s involvement in politics and the running of the government, our voice is heard in what was once the bastion of men. I cheer when I see a woman voted into parlimament and into political office. And I look forward to the day when more women are the leaders of the country.
During March, which is Women’s History Month, I reflect on all those women who fought for the rights I now enjoy. Who/what do you think of?