This Blog was developed by Mabila Mursalova for the Centre for Training and Consultancy (CTC).
A Need for Fight
Women from my country, Azerbaijan, were granted voting right in 1918. Since then, they began to raise their voices in various social, political, and economic issues. For example, their protest against women not being allowed to enter certain public spaces in the country got women the right to enter these spaces. Similarly, they fought together with men for years against Soviet invasion for the country’s independence, and in many different circumstances, to protect the country’s soverignity. Despite these heoric actions, women face a lot of discrimination in Azerbaijan, and in some cases, are treated as second class citizens. There seems to be an unwritten rule that dictates how women are supposed to act in society. And, dare they act in a different way, they are accused of being “ill-mannered”, “immoral”, and “shameless”. It is very painful to see that some women have made peace with this situation, while others are being crushed under this burden silently. However, I know there is hope. Regardless of the backlashes faced, there are women who are willing and have been continuously fighting against injustice caused by irrational men and women, and careless approach from the majority in society.
A Helping Hand
I personally believe that if you see something is out of order, you have to do something about it, and not just wait and hope that someone else will fix it. There was a period in my life, where I was searching for a way out. I wanted to be engaged and do something, rather than just watch and complain. Therefore, I started to work in a women’s organization and met some feminist representatives from my country as well as abroad. Eventually, I came across community action training (CAT), an initiative of Center for Training and Consultancy (CTC), an advanced institution that is trying to build a better future by developing individuals. I applied to the initiatve and was selected. It provided me with the knowledge, skillset and opportunity to learn so much about social transformation, and even start my own initiative, which I had never imagined. I remember the trainers saying, “don’t stand outside, come and join us, and begin changing the world with your own ideas, and don’t worry, we will help you”. And they did!
A Step for Change
From my point of view, the human mindset is in the middle of every reality. If we want change, we have to adress people’s way of thinking. In my society, people always act considering others’ thoughts and sayings. Particularly, women are expected to do this more, because of the “societal rules” imposed on how they should talk, behave and act. As a result, women face limitations in expressing themselves. Realizing the importance to change this, my project has been raising awareness about the challenges faced by women in Azerbaijan with the use of technology. We created a web-platform called “Başqaları nə deyir?! (What do others say?!)”. Women of different ages are able to share their stories about the challenges they have been facing because of a strong prevalence of the “what will other people say if we act in this way?” perception in the Azerbaijani society that influences or limits their way of being. It is not always the women who stop acting out of fear to this thought, but rather sadly the people around them, and their familiies. Therefore, with this small step, I wanted to give a chance to those women who need to be heard. Unfortunately, every project has a time limitation, and so does ours. But, I would like to keep the web-platform running, even after the project ends. Many women wrote to me saying that they have been inspired by this movement. Some even admitted that they are trying to be more courageos, and slowly conquerring their fears. Read their stories at https://www.womenstories.online/ .
A Future for Everyone
“Why can only women participate in this?”, asked a group of men about a CAT training. “Isn’t it discrimination?” Yes. If you look from a braoder perspective, every human being can face condemnation and be afraid of moving forward. However, unfortunately, there is no equality in the world we live in today. Most of us know and will agree that women have suffered more in all perspectives. Therefore, we have to create a balance between two sides: men and women. First, help me to bring equality; help me to free women from their burdens, then we can focus on other important issues together. I got enermous help from people around me: feminists, friends (men and women), and even people that I didn’t know. They shared about the web-platform and encouraged people to share their stories and spread the ideas around. All this support has made me believe that there is still hope for a bright future. All of us, women and men, can fight side by side for the world to become a better place: a world in which people can be themsleves and be an inspiration to others, without condemnations. This maybe a small step, but we shouldn’t forget that every great movement starts with small steps. There are many ways to help others. I am currently pursuing a second master’s in development stdueis. Before starting it, I wasn’t very sure and I kept asking myself, “is this the path that I should follow?” Eventually I did. Thanks to the CAT program! It gave me the inspiration to help the development of people and the world in general.