Maryam Majidova is the co-founder of the social platform Gender Hub, which brings together advocacy groups, nonprofits, feminists and human rights activists to fight gender-based violence. The platform also aims to empower women and girls and help them overcome gender challenges.
“I have had to fight against gender stereotypes and discrimination since my childhood, since I lost my father. In school and college, when I was successful, people would ask me about the “man” behind me. They could not accept that a woman could be successful without the support of a man.
I believe that gender stereotypes have a detrimental effect on the ability of women to develop their personal capacities, to pursue their professional careers and to make choices about their lives. I decided to fight against these stereotypes, which, unfortunately, are dominant throughout Azerbaijan.
As a gender activist, trainer and youth policy expert, I have been working on positive youth development for about ten years. During this period, I partnered with international organizations, including the United Nations, on projects supporting the participation of women in public and political life.
According to the National Survey on Violence Against Women in Azerbaijan, 24% of women aged 15-59 have experienced violence from a non-partner or an intimate partner. This is a national problem and it should be high on the government’s agenda.
The active engagement of men and boys is essential to prevent and address violence against women. Having men speak out against gender-based violence will also help change societal perceptions of gender roles and patriarchal norms.
A red card for violence against women
To raise awareness of the consequences of gender-based violence and the benefits of an egalitarian society, my colleagues and I organized a series of events across the country, using the hashtag #menengage, a key topic of the 2021 ’16 Days of Campaign. activism against gender-based violence, launched by the UN in Azerbaijan
The UN has joined forces with an Azerbaijani soccer team, Neftchi FC, who have agreed to play one of their league matches wearing orange jerseys bearing the slogan “Stop violence against women”. The UN also worked with local influencers who helped spread the slogan through traditional and social media.
Rapid change is difficult to achieve with such a deeply rooted cultural and structural problem. Nonetheless, I am convinced that these types of projects send the right message and help bring about the kind of change that we dream of.
Sometimes companies hire women because of quotas, for nominal inclusion, but I don’t want to be hired for numbers. I also believe that no one should tell a woman what she deserves, or how she should behave. I just want women to have the same rights as men.