“And men have to stop being afraid,” Osman continues. “I will never forget a woman who was running for office in Tunis. The men wouldn’t look at her. She said, ‘How am I supposed to represent you? Look at me! Shake my hand!’”
While many of us would immediately think of violence against women as physical or verbal abuse, Osman told us that she considers acts of discrimination yet another force holding women back.
“We look at violence in a more comprehensive way,” she explains. “The fact that women are unable to participate fully in issues and the fact that there aren’t more women policy makers –that’s violence against women. We are being held back because of our gender. Other people look at violence from the physical –it’s the physical or it’s the psychological. But if there are 500 seats in Parliament and only eight women are occupy them –that’s violence against women. Why didn’t more women get voted in? Maybe they don’t have the education, maybe they’re afraid, maybe they don’t have the security –that’s violence against women.”
But the human rights leader poignantly explained that one of the West’s biggest misconceptions is judging a woman as poverty-stricken or oppressed simply because she wears a veil or leads a different lifestyle.
“Just because a woman is Muslim and she is covered doesn’t mean she is down and out,” Osman tells us. “If you continuously look at the last 10 years, every time you say Muslim woman, there is mention of this mysterious burqa. But they don’t see the economic burqa or the social burqa they are hiding under. In the West, everyone talks about the burqa, but do they ever think about the invisible burqa that they themselves are wearing?”
Nevertheless, Osman continues to retain an undying hope that we will band together under one common goal: equal rights.
“I have always said that if you have seen a country that is going down an anti-woman and anti-foreign path, it is the benchmark of a country about to go downhill,” Osman says. “Women have learned and have politicized the issues instead of just saying, ‘We want our rights’. They are saying, ‘No, we have power, we have numbers, so let’s see.’
Osman says she hopes women will learn from each other. “We’ll be a strong block to safeguard the values of the revolution,” she says. “We’re learning from each other and discussing strategies and giving support to each other. There is this code between women –sometimes you don’t even have to speak the same language, yet you know her pain and her happiness. She can inspire you, but she’ll be speaking in Spanish. What you see today are independent women depending on each other.”
To find out more about how you can help women on an international level today, visit Karama’s website and the International Women’s Day page. Together, we can help provide a brighter future for all women.
Diana Denza is a regular contributor to BettyConfidential.