This is Farah Mohammed, from Jamaica, where she works at UNDP before heading to graduate school at Northwestern University in 2014. Her big dream is to make a meaningful contribution to the world, and live somewhere near the mountains. Read Farah’s blog posts and follow her on Twitter @FarahColette.
Why do you blog for Girls’ Globe?
I think it’s a great and inspirational organization, with several passionate, hard-working women who are from very varied backgrounds but all equally impressive in drive and experience. I stumbled upon it through another blog, and was struck by the articles, especially the intelligence and originality behind them. It was clear the writers weren’t just padding portfolios or putting up filler content, but real, relevant news and opinions.
What led you to becoming an advocate for women’s & girls’ rights?
I grew up in the Caribbean, where although women have achieved a significant amount in terms of equality, the region still maintains a heavily patriarchal society. My mother is a doctor and raised four children while travelling, teaching and learning languages, so while I had this amazing female figure to look up to while I was growing up, the older I got, the more I saw an inherent system bias against women. In school the girls were kept away from sports and taught sewing and cooking. Walking on the road, we’re constantly catcalled. In the office, it was expected that I’d have to put up with unwanted attention from my bosses and in some places, sexual favors in exchange for professional advances is the norm rather than the exception. At home, though, I had my mom, a sister who became a lawyer, another who was a star athlete and was pushed by my father to study the sciences and math (even if I myself wasn’t so much a fan of those, haha). Growing up with no gender boundaries in your family and so many in your society is one surefire way to show a girl the difference between what she’s capable of vs. what she’s expected to do, and as I got older, I began to want to close this gap.
What do you think are the biggest challenges and the greatest successes?
Equality in the workplace, the growing acceptance of respect and recognition women are given both at home and in the public sphere. This has changed hugely from when I was younger; Jamaica has a female Prime Minister now! At the same time, we’re not anywhere close to there yet: a persistent, insidious rape culture, for example, continues to plague women worldwide. Even in university abroad, going through cases of sexual assault with friends, I was shocked at how much responsibility was relegated to the girl – how she was dressed, her sexual history, was she sure that she hadn’t said yes? It is one area where you’re sometimes dumbfounded by how things are handled in this day and age.
Why do you think the Girls’ Globe community is important?
The best thing about Girls’ Globe is the networking aspect; since joining, I’ve discovered other organizations, met other women leaders, talked to other groups via blogs, Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. It has been both inspiring and educational. This sharing of resources and ideas is both necessary and even more than that, encouraging! I’ve felt a lot better about the future seeing how much great work is being done, by how many people. I really hope it continues to grow and that I can keep being a part of it.