Suffragettes100: Barking pupils talk feminism for women’s vote centenary

PUBLISHED: 15:00 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:52 06 February 2018

Barking Abbey School. Picture: Ken Mears

Barking Abbey School. Picture: Ken Mears

Ken Mears

The UK commemorates a century of women’s suffrage tomorrow. Ahead of the historic milestone, the Barking and Dagenham Post spoke to Year 9 pupils from Barking Abbey School on what feminism means to them.

Hafsa Amir, 13, used to shy away from the term.

“You get the wrong connotations from that word, that it’s something to do with man-hating or it’s blaming men,” she said.

“But it’s not. It’s about having equal rights and it’s about having the same opportunities in life.”

After learning about the Suffragettes and the struggle for votes for women, she said she now likes “being a feminist”.

Figures like Emily Davidson and the Pankhursts she added, were “really powerful and brave” to fight for change at a time where women expected to be seen, not heard.

She said: “And for them to do that, to do what they did, and to get the right to vote – even if it wasn’t completely how it is now – it was very important for us women.”

For Gabrielle Armstrong and Shagana Gnanapandithan, feminism has helped girls take on guys at their own games.

“I think that it’s a great part of our society because without it we wouldn’t be able to do things as girls like play football, or play sports that other boys do,” said Gabrielle.

More awards came women’s way thanks to increased female participation in sport, she added.

The 13-year-olds agreed society needed a level playing field regarding opportunities for women.

Otherwise “it would just be weird”, said Shagana.

“I do taekwondo, so you wouldn’t have [Team GB star] Jade Jones winning gold every Olympics.”

Sumaya Dahir and her schoolmate Amaal Moorad, both 13, were thankful for the rights they enjoy today.

“I think that feminism is really important because without feminism we wouldn’t have gender equality the way it is today,” said Sumaya.

It gave women the chance to broaden their horizons in areas previously out of reach, agreed Amaal.

“For example, I wouldn’t be able to go to school,” she said. “I wouldn’t get this great education.”

But this had not been easy. The two noted how women like the Suffragettes put their bodies at risk for their beliefs.

“They went to prison for us – just for our rights, for the future – and I think that’s really important,” said Amaal.

Their impact on history was clear, said Sumaya.

“We’ve come from women that don’t have the right to vote to a female prime minister at this present moment,” she said.

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