‘I never feel more agitated than in the face of what’s happening to women. The atmosphere of benign neglect, compounded by the rooted gender inequality, all adds up to a death sentence for countless millions of women in the developing world. For whatever reason, we can’t break the monolith of indifference and paralysis.
I’ve tried in this lecture to give you a glimpse, experienced or discerned on a personal basis, of the struggle for women’s human rights. I can’t pretend that it’s more than a glimpse, and it doesn’t begin to approximate the frustrations and heroism, tenacity and despair, progress and setbacks faced by the leaders of the women’s movement itself. I’ve concentrated on Africa, as I have before in these lectures, because it’s the continent I know best, and because it yields such vivid examples.
Governments in Africa do not do well in the protection of women’s rights. In fact, as I shall momentarily demonstrate, they are profoundly deficient. I’ve been completely taken aback, on more than one occasion, by the wall of indifference thrown up by cabinet ministers when I raise, for example, the plight of women in the era of AIDS. At one point, in the case of Angola, a very senior member of the administration lapsed into locker-room smirking at the mere mention of women. My argument is quite simple: They would not be allowed to indulge in such asinine and / or negligent behaviour if there were a watchdog, a full-fledged agency or institution as part of the United Nations, whose job it was to ride herd on the recalcitrants. Governments get away with it because no one cares enough to prevent governments from getting away with it.’
Returns – MEC 2 July 2020
“Yeah, so here you go.”
Doug casually dropped the book on the desk in front of me and paused there, waiting. I finished typing, trying to at least complete the thought on my screen, before turning my attention to whatever book it was that he had just unceremoniously dumped on my desk.
It looked as though it had been through a tornado. Facedown on my desk, its pages were swollen and riffled from the spine. The back cover was torn, its pages yellowed and dog-eared. I reached out to pick it up and thought: This can’t be the book I lent him; it must be a different one – maybe one that he thinks I might like. But as my wrist rolled and I got a glimpse of the title on the spine, I knew that it was – or had been – my book.
My mouth dropped open as my hand stopped in mid-air. I could see the face of the book now, and its cover was missing. Gone. Entirely. My eyes moved from the book slowly up to Doug’s face. His expression had changed in seconds: from casual indifference to a solidly more defensive position. His eyes had narrowed, his jaw was fixed, his cheeks were red.
“What?” he demanded, glaring at me.
“This… THIS! is NOT my book,” I said, firmly, as I set the mangled book, smelling slightly of mildew, back down on my desk with its crumpled title page facing up. Meeting his eyes, I slid the carcass back towards him.
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