Human Rights Day
I am Generation Equality: Katya Slepneva, teacher, activist for elimination of violence against women
Date: Thursday, December 10, 2020
I am Generation Equality because…
I am eternally grateful to all feminists who fought for gender equality and women’s rights for our generation. Thanks to them I have the right to education, employment and my own personal development. I didn’t want to simply enjoy the fruits of their struggle. I wanted to continue what they started and advocate for the rights of women of today and future generations.
Being inspired by gender equality advocates, I learnt more about the feminist agenda. I realized the root causes of the challenges I’ve been facing since childhood. Many women and girls like myself still cannot fully enjoy their rights due to patriarchy and systemic gender oppression.
Gender inequality in Belarus
In Belarus, there is still a lot to be done in advancing gender equality. Even though women of Belarus have shown to the world their leadership and power, women, in general, are still perceived through a traditional lens and regarded as weak, kind, caring, and modest. At schools, boys learn how to use hammers and girls learn how to cook and sew. When choosing sports, boys by default are sent to martial arts, while girls learn to dance. However, I believe everyone should be able to make their own choice free of gender stereotypes and discrimination.
Three actions you can take to be part of Generation Equality:
- Show your solidarity
- Promote safe physical and cyber spaces for women and girls
- Educate for equality
So, I started with promoting feminism in education by launching a study club on women’s rights in my organization. We discuss gendered education, violence against women, LGBTIQ+ agenda, gender stereotypes, women’s leadership and many other challenges faced by women in Belarus.
I initiated diverse initiatives in advancing gender equality in education and promoting zero tolerance towards violence against women and girls. Together with my team at Aktyinym Bytz Faina (ABF BY) non-governmental organization, we organized free self-defense courses for women, where men could also join. The courses focused on elimination of violence against women and promoting gender equality.
If men in Belarus were constantly facing the fear of violence, we would have had effective laws ages ago.
Engaging men to act for equality
I have faced situations where men activists told us that problems that feminists raise are not a priority and that we shouldn’t focus on them.
I strongly believe men should be part of the solution. How can we stop rape without men being involved? How can we equally split care work between men and women without men’s support?
We need to meaningfully engage men into discussions to build solidarity between women and men. Both men and women as well as girls and boys should work towards equality.
I call on everyone to advocate for a generation of equality to realize a world where everyone can enjoy equal rights and opportunities. Every action counts. Imagine how many great scientists, artists, doctors we are losing because so many girls still have no access to education. If everyone had the opportunity to realize their potential, wouldn’t all humanity benefit from the results?
Katya Slepneva is a 23-year-old English teacher, a feminist activist and the International Secretary at ABF BY educational organization in Belarus. She is also an active participant in the civil society subregional consultations on Beijing+25, organized by women’s rights advocates from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region with support from UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and Women Engage for a Common Future.