Looking at some posts and newspaper articles that were published last Sunday for International Women’s day, I couldn’t help but feel how lucky I was that so many women had fought long and hard to achieve the benefits I probably take for granted every day. One post on facebook showed a picture of a woman (Kathrine Switzer) running the 1967 Boston marathon despite stewards trying to physically remove her off the road because she was not a man and Emmeline Pankhurst who was imprisoned many times for protesting to allow women to have a voice and a right to vote the same as a man.
I am also fortunate to work in a profession (British Sign Language / English Interpreting) where I have not personally, experienced sexism by male colleagues. In terms of unequal pay for a woman compared to a man in the same role, it would appear that because freelance interpreters decide their own fees based on the current market trends and what interpreting organisations such as Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) advise and usually based on what other interpreters are charging – regardless of sex, I don’t believe this is a current issue. Recently with the worrying situation over the proposed national framework http://limpingchicken.com/2014/12/09/national-framework-agreement/ male and female interpreters have stuck together to campaign and lobby for a fairer more just National Framework Agreement to benefit both BSL interpreters and deaf people.
So whilst it seems things are improving and appear to be much better compared to what it has been in the past, the UK is not perfect. Equality isn’t something I am interested in achieving only for women. For example, the recent quote from Mencap that 175 people with a learning disability were turned away from a polling station – because they had a learning disability https://twitter.com/mencap_charity , or that people with learning disabilities are less likely to receive an invitation to be screened for breast cancer (10%) despite a 90% take up rate for those that do (Health Care Commission 2005). Or, that considering there is such an emphasis on people being informed to make healthy choices, whilst hearing people are bombarded with advice, there is a lack of even basic health information in British Sign Language; and, that 8 in 10 people who are deaf want to communicate with their doctor using British Sign Language, but only 3 in 10 are given the chance http://www.signhealth.org.uk/health-information/sick-of-it-report/sick-of-it-in-english/
It might be easy for me or for us as a society to be complacent. I could have an attitude of apathy and make do with the status quo. However, just because I personally don’t experience inequality does not mean it is not happening around me. We need to hold onto these laws and rights that have been achieved by others and not take them for granted. Unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world and whilst it would be nice to think we can all live in equality and harmony without employment laws, the Equality Act, etc. this is not the current situation. I only have to look at the shameful acts of some Chelsea football fans for pushing a man off a tube carriage because he was black and shouting racist chants to know that there is still a lot of work to be done in making this an equal society for all. We need to ensure that we consciously act to keep and improve the current standards that so many have fought hard and even lost their lives to achieve. Yes I believe I have it easier than my fellow sisters in the late 19th / early 20th Century but the baton has now been passed onto us to be proactive to ensure that those from all walks of life have a fairer society in which to live.