Fiddling While Rome Burns

12 03 2011

On Tuesday night I was booted and suited and striding along Princes Street on my way to the Caledonian Hilton for a drinks reception hosted by CMI-WIM group at which Lady Susan Rice was the guest speaker.

I’d had a productive day and was looking forward to getting out of the rain, to networking in pleasant surroundings, to cocktails and canapes and to hearing what Susan had to say. It was cold and starting to go dark in that sullen way that is peculiar to Scottish cities.

As I strode towards the hotel I passed bundles of humanity huddled against the rain and preparing themselves for the bitter night ahead.

As I passed I was struck by a single thought – one that I haven’t been able to shake – are we fiddling while Rome burns?

This week the New Statesman printed a well written and well argued essay from Natasha Walker in which she details the plight of a woman, Saron, who fled Ethopia and jail, rape and violence only to find that her treatment here in the UK was even worse. As Saron puts it, “ It wasn’t what happened to me at home that broke my spirit it was what happened to me here.”

I am not going to detail her mistreatment here in the UK and her repeated detention at Yarl’s Wood. Hers is not a unique story, would that it were. The mistreatment of women refugees here in the UK is commonplace.

I mention her case, in this week when we celebrates 100 years of International Women’s Day, to suggest that a preoccupation with issues that just affect women in business here in the UK is a tiny part of a much, much bigger picture.

No man is an island and, more crucially if we are to address inequality, neither is any woman.

It is easy to focus on issues that affect one personally. I may have had a good day, or a bad day, but I am always able to come home to a safe place.

We all know, at some level, that women are oppressed in other countries but stories like Sarons show that women can be treated just as brutally here in the UK.

We are all connected and it is incumbent upon all of us to join the dots!

This month’s issue of the3rdi magazine has an article by Ruth Walker highlighting the plight of the Dallits in India. This piece is the first of many and the April issue will be opened up to look at the issues facing women in the wider world and, importantly, explores ways in which we can do something to support women who are not as lucky as we are, as knowledge without action means that we run the risk of fiddling while Rome burns.

The3rdi magazine will continue to develop initiatives to support women in our communities and beyond.

The Inspiring Leaders Foundation will support community projects following the launch event in Edinburgh.

Fair Comment is designed to support community projects in collaboration with the Women’s Fund.

You can support us by joining the co-operative. You will get benefits that support you as an individual and you will support our programmes for women . £50 is not a lot of money but we know that these are difficult times. If you are unable to become a full member then please consider making a donation.

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One response

6 04 2011
Patricia Elliot

Excellent article Karen. I just wanted to add that we must not forget the plight of women in our own country – having been involved in women who have been abused by partners, carers etc and some ended up in jail (a totally inappropriate place for some) I know that their challenges and difficulties faced are just as those from other countries. Together I know we can address this but change the world can only be done a small step at a time but every little step makes a difference. Keep your excellent articles coming – your style of writing is professional and engaging and very readable. Thank you. Patricia

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