Are you free?
How can you be completely sure? Is it because you are told by others that you have free will, the power to make your own choices? Do you feel so because you have never experienced what you believe is oppression? Or, do you call yourself free because it would be ungrateful to call yourself anything else while others have it worse than you?
These are questions we asked women and girls from over 9 countries as part of our Storytelling Program, all of whom with cultural experiences vastly different from one another. Through storytelling, they explored the very fluid concept of freedom, and what it meant to them as women.
What we received were stories of personal triumph and frustration, reflections, powerful poems and other creative interpretations of freedom.
Some realized that they don't truly know if they are free: society's invisible shackles remain invisible until contemplation, and, often, retrospection. The societal roles we women are forced to live up to and abide by every single second of our lives limit the choices we make and the lives we choose to live, and therefore no woman can ever be 'free'. But, the women who break out of these roles and live how they want to, are they free while the society around them continues to try and put them back into a box?
Others felt that they have some level of freedom, albeit not as much as they would like. Although after reading the girls' submissions I realize how subjective freedom is, I believe that almost all women can agree that the most essential aspect of being a 'free' person is that you can make your own choices, great choices AND not-so-great choices.
The topic of freedom is relevant any day and every day and everywhere, especially for women. It has become even more relevant since the American elections and continues to be prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic as people are forced to quite literally give up their social freedoms and confine themselves.
However, the public narrative around freedom is often skewed when women become involved; we are silenced and told that women have never been this liberated. When we ask for more or for better, we're ungrateful. If we embrace our freedom, we're doing too much.
Being a woman in a world that seems to be accepting and modern while fighting for your own basic and complex liberties is exhausting. Like many women, I can only dream and hope for a world in which we all have equal liberties. But, for now, I hope you can identify with and find solace in the stories of freedom (and the lack thereof) we received from incredible women and girls around the world.
The submissions on our blog are truly worth reading and give me an astonishing amount of joy and hope. Thank you to our incredible storytellers for creating such inspiring pieces!
Lots of love,
Ayesha and the Girlz, FTW Team