March 10, 2017

#LifeinLeggings | Part 1



It's shocking and embarrassing to know that in 2017, women and children are still not given the same level of respect and rights as men.
It's also shocking to think that for many of us in the Caribbean, sexual harassment, disrespect because of our gender and the threat of violence is a daily occurrence.


The statistics

Violence against women and girls is rife in the Caribbean.
  • Three of the world's top ten countries with the highest incidence of rape are the Bahamas, Jamaica and Barbados, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It also found nearly a third of women in the region have suffered domestic abuse.
  • The University of the West Indies' Institute of Gender Studies estimates 30 to 50 percent of murders in Caribbean countries are related to domestic violence.
  • More than 30 percent of women in the Caribbean report high rates of fear of sexual assault compared with 11 percent of men, according to a U.N. Development Programme report.
And those are just the few statistics available.

The Movement

#LifeInLeggings was purposely coined to dispel the myth that only certain types of women are harassed and are deserving of their assault/abuse because of the way they are dressed. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Leggings are the one piece of clothing used in these examples to describe “slack dress attire” and to perpetuate this narrative. However every woman and little girl owns a pair of leggings.

“The campaign and the subsequent discussion on rape culture forced everyone, including opinion leaders, to declare their position on women’s rights, and this is a good instalment to an ongoing struggle to dislodge misogyny.” The campaign adds width and depth to the struggle. #LifeInLeggings provides a space for all women with access to Internet to share their experiences and opinions online, and empowers the voice of ordinary citizens. Additionally, the online movement has created avenues for the marriage between the already strong Caribbean academic feminist base and the community-led activists – an important element to any effective civil rights movement." [Source]

The #Lifeinleggings Movement started in November, 2016 by a group of Barbadian women, led by Ronelle King. The hashtag was created as a forum for Caribbean women to share their daily experiences of sexual harassment and abuse.
You can read more about how the movement was started in Ronelle's blog post, Starting a Revolution - #LifeinLeggings.

Towards the end of 2016, the #LifeinLeggings movement evolved as it went viral in Barbados and throughout the Caribbean and the reason for this is that it struck a cord with every single woman I knew. We had all experienced violence and disrespect as woman in some way - from abuse, to sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

What struck me about the stories I was reading was that so many women had been shamed, threatened or simply silenced and this platform allowed them to share their story and receive support.

The #LifeinLeggings movement also created an online form which people could fill out - anonymously - and share their stories of abuse, violence and harassment.

Some have said that this is just a platform for women to vent, but I think that can't be further from the truth. This group has managed to start a movement in a region that is governed by a patriarchal system. The #LifeinLeggings movement is about speaking up about gender based violence and shifting the social perception of what is considered the norm.



The March


As part of International Women's Day celebrations, the #LifeinLeggings scheduled a march on Saturday, March 11th - "Reclaim Our Streets" which is aimed at showing solidarity with survivors of gender-based violence. The theme is based on the concept that women and girls deserve to feel safe walking the streets of their own countries. I am so excited to see a group of young women creating an opportunity for everyone to take a stand against gender violence in the Caribbean.

Here are some reasons why I'm marching at Reclaim Our Streets: Women's Solidarity March (Barbados) along with hundreds of others throughout 7 Caribbean islands tomorrow:

- I believe that we have the right to live free from violence and/or the fear of violence.

- I believe that unity is strength; the voices of many are louder together than a single voice. 
"Our history has taught us that there is strength in togetherness, in people convicted of an idea, united towards its realisation" - Together WI

- I believe in supporting young people who are doing things to bring about positive change in our region.

- I believe in the wise words of Charles Fuller:

“To spend one's life being angry, and in the process doing nothing to change it, is to me ridiculous. I could be mad all day long, but if I'm not doing a damn thing, what difference does it make?”

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