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Ali: Hi, I’m Ali Plum. I’m here to talk to Emma about HeForShe and the launch of the new HeForShe website. For those who don’t know, what is HeForShe?
Emma: HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality, like, in a nutshell.
Ali: Big question here … what is HeForShe trying to achieve?
Emma: We’re trying to achieve gender equality, but I think the really cool thing about HeForShe is that we aren’t just, you know, an education or an awareness campaign. It’s wonderful that so many people are talking about it and it’s great that so many people are talking about it but we’re more than just an awareness campaign, we are mission-focused. We’re really trying to erm… collect, register, be aware of people that are taking action for gender equality, and, and that’s really our main focus.
Ali: Where are we currently in the world with the state of gender equality?
Emma: Well, it’s really interesting because there’s this perceived notion that gender inequality was sort of a thing of the past, that we’ve sort of figured that one out and, you know, we’re kind of where we need to be but when you start to look even just a little bit deeper beneath the surface you start to realise that actually we’ve got quite a long way to go.
Ali: Why is it important to involve men, like myself, with this project?
Emma: I think there’s this perception that feminism or gender equality or women’s issues are to be talked about by women, that it’s for women, and you know, women are like this separate thing but of course, women are human beings and these are human rights that we’re talking about so we kind of need everyone to be part of the conversation and that was really what HeForShe is about and how HeForShe was born, was that we wanted to make sure that conversation was inclusive and also we were talking to people that didn’t agree with us and that was actually really important. We want to create change and so the conversation needs to be opened up to groups that perhaps traditionally hadn’t been associated with engaging with feminism or gender equality.
Ali: Could you give me some examples of stories from men who have become involved with HeForShe?
Emma: I was on the university, er, tour for HeForShe and there was a young man who we asked, you know, like, what would gender equality mean for you and he was like, well, it would mean that I could drink my fizzy cider without my mates taking the piss out of me, and I was like, well, it doesn’t sound like a very compelling reason to achieve gender equality in the world, but actually, he sort of started to elaborate more, and he was just saying that he found the pressure to fit this male mould and to conform to this kind of lad culture of like this very heavy binge drinking, actually really kind of soul-destroying and he was often ashamed of how he acted when he was on these huge, like, binge drinking, erm, things with his mates and and how he treated girls specifically when he was like that and … the dude just wanted to drink fizzy cider, you know what I’m saying?! And it was just … it was just really sweet, actually and I just found that, something so simple, but guys feel this incredible pressure to be ... that, in order to be a man, there are all these ideas that they really have to live up to and to conform to and it’s actually a bit suffocating.
Ali: We’re here to specifically discuss the HeForShe.org website. Why is that so important?
Emma: Well, it’s important because we want to be the first and largest, er, crowdsourcing tool for solutions to gender equality and the reason that is exciting is because we’ve had people sign up to the commitment and I’ve had lots of wonderful emails from men, saying all right, I’m on board, I get it, I’m into it, you know, great, but what do you want me to do? What do you actually want me to do about this now? I’m like … So this has been great, and we’ve received hundreds of emails like this and so we’ve set up this website. But what’s been interesting is that we haven’t wanted to prescribe to anyone how best within their specific country, town, school, community whatever the best way to enact this change is and actually when people have come up with their own solutions organically, there’s been some amazing things that have happened, so, erm, a man in Zimbabwe started a husband school for HeForShe, which was incredible, erm, we’ve had, one of our HeForShe champions, the president of Malawi, just annulled 300 child bride marriages, and sent the girls back to school, which was unbelievable, erm … we’ve had the University of Waterloo decided that they’re going to give scholarships for girls for engineering specifically, which has been amazing, so, we’ve kind of, we’ve realised that, like, you guys have the solutions and we just need to create the platform through which we can inspire you, erm, so, we’ve created this website and we think it’s pretty awesome.