I am Generation Equality: Umama Zillur, Bangladeshi feminist activist and researcher
Billions of people across the world stand on the right side of history every day. They speak up, take a stand, mobilize, and take big and small actions to advance women’s rights. This is Generation Equality.
Three things you can do to stop gender-based violence:
- Support mandatory rights-based, comprehensive sexuality education — including on gender norms, consent, healthy relationships — at all educational institutions
- Hold workplaces accountable by ensuring they have functioning sexual harassment complaint committees as per High Court guidelines
- Create a culture of zero tolerance for victim-blaming at all levels of society
I am generation equality because…
I'm standing up and speaking out for our right to decide about our body, life and future. Being vocal about these rights means fighting for myself, for my loved ones, friends and family, for strangers across the globe in a world that was not built for us. Speaking up is my way of channeling my rage at our current world, and the process of rebuilding a new one.
The most urgent issue of our time is gender-based violence and the fact that it is treated as a normal part of our culture in Bangladesh. We have made a 10-point demand to the Government, demanding that gender-based violence be declared as a national emergency.
Focus on those around us
I think it’s really important to direct our energies towards our own communities. We have a tendency to always move away from our own communities when we do advocacy work, simply because it’s easier to convince ourselves that we will be able to change others while overlooking the change we ourselves need. I would push us all to do the hard work of trying to bring about change in our own communities, groups of friends, and family members. Difficult dinner table conversations with family members and holding peers accountable in group chats are just as important, if not more important, as working with policy specialists and lawmakers.
Men can be a part of the solution by simply making sure they are not part of the problem – and a lot of them are directly or indirectly part of the problem.
The number one thing that everyone needs to do urgently is to not treat gender-based violence as a normal part of Bangladeshi culture. Pervasive gender-based violence across all ages, locations and socioeconomic classes is not normal and it should not be treated as such.
Need legal, educational and social transformation
The Feminists Across Generations alliance has a comprehensive list of 10 demands to the Government as well as to our society that we felt were crucial in tackling gender-based violence. These range from mandatory comprehensive sexuality education; very specific legal reforms; a call to our notable institutions such as the media and schools to end victim-blaming; and mechanisms to tackle cyber gender-based violence.
Men can be a part of the solution by simply making sure they are not part of the problem - and a lot of them are directly or indirectly part of the problem. I think cisgender men have a particular responsibility to tackle gender-based violence because they are the majority of the perpetrators. This means holding the men around them accountable.
Umama Zillur, 26, is a feminist activist and researcher at the Dhaka-based Power and Participation Research Centre, which focuses on research on urban dynamics through a gender lens. She is the founder of Kotha, a feminist organization tackling gender-based violence through education. Zillur also is a founding member of Feminists Across Generations. For her work, she has been recognized as a SheDecides 25x25 Young Leader and Acumen Fellow 2021.