‘THE WAR ON WOMEN’

THIS WEEK, AHEAD OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY TOMORROW, LILI DONLON-MANSBRIDGE SHARES A BOOK RECOMMENDATION OF A PERSONAL FAVOURITE: SUE LLOYD-ROBERTS ‘THE WAR ON WOMEN’….

‘Why is it that women who make up 51% of the world’s population are still campaigning for fair and humane treatment in the twenty first century?’

Sue Lloyd-Robert’s career began in 1973 when she joined ITN as a news trainee. She went on to become one of the first British video-journalists to report from some of the most dangerous and impenetrable places in the world.

This inspiring work tells the stories of women from around the globe in 12 parts, exploring and uncovering how the ‘War on Women’ is being waged through various means and in numerous ways. Drawing on a career that spanned over 40 years, Lloyd-Robert comprehensively, yet tenderly, documents the events and systems that cause the oppression of women, giving the reader a deeper understanding of the horrendous problems that face women world-wide. From the distressing recollections of those who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation in Gambia to the heart-breaking stories of the ‘Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo’ (a generation of women whose children and grandchildren were taken by the Argentinian state), Lloyd-Roberts allies her documentation of trauma with an undercurrent of hope.

The intimacy of the tone is central to this work’s power. Through her use of innumerable raw, unfiltered personal accounts, the book does not shy away from uncomfortable topics. Why was the UK government not ‘brave’ enough to ‘outlaw forced marriage’ until 2014? What was it like to be an Egyptian woman systematically and institutionally sexually assaulted and tortured for protesting for her rights? When will the Catholic Church apologise, to ‘Mary’ and the countless other ‘fallen women’ of Ireland, for ripping them apart from their children? The details of events are brutal and chilling and honest.

The personal life and work of Lloyd-Roberts makes this publication ever-the-more poignant. Tragically, Lloyd-Robert died of Leukaemia before the book was finished. Working alongside a ‘brilliant editor’, her daughter Sarah Morris finished the last chapter and published the book. The War on Women ‘meant everything’ to her mum.

In a warm and heartfelt introduction, Morris reminisces on memories of her mother. Her recollections are full of love and humour; how she would ‘often come home to Mum sitting on the sofa with a Tibetan monk, or making a cup of tea for a Pakistani refugee’ and how, when Morris was married, she insisted her name was before her husband on the invitation – ‘Sarah if your name’s not first on the invitation, I’m not coming. It means he’s won already. She loved my husband but hated the patriarchy and fought hard against it’. Morris concludes with a hope that, when the book was finally published, Lloyd-Roberts was ‘reading it somewhere, in her red book-launch dress, proud of herself and pleased with the final result.’

Though it would be easy to write a book that feels hopeless – indeed, in face of the horrific suffering and abuse of women it seems difficult to do little else – Lloyd-Roberts refuses. While it plays a vital role in exposing the reality of what these women existence, this book isn’t just about the ‘War on Women’. It is testament to women’s determination and bravery and a record of their decision and desire to remain undefeated; it honours the ‘brave ones who fight back’.

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TOMORROW (MARCH 8TH) IS THE LAUNCH OF ‘FRANKLY SPEAKING’, THE JOYCE FRANKLAND SOCIETY’S ZINE. BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY FORMAL AT CAIUS, THERE WILL BE TALKS HELD IN THE BATEMAN AUDITORIUM, FOLLOWED BY AN ART EXHIBITION, LIVE MUSIC AND DRINKS IN THE LORD COLYTON HALL AND SENIOUR PARLOUR AFTER THE FORMAL. FACEBOOK EVENT HERE: https://www.facebook.com/events/142337569783053/

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