Mothers, daughters, wives, spies, reporters, doctors, soldiers, they have been given many roles which carry their own responsibilities and duties but above all first and foremost they were women. Standing side by side with their male colleagues; colleagues they were both responsible for and relied on with their life.
If you say women in conflict you will most probably think of an image of women and children hiding under the stairs whilst the man is standing in front of them with his arms spread protecting them, or women carrying their children along with all their worldly possessions that they can carry escaping into a refugee camp to flee from rebels invading their village. People rarely tend to think of women on the front line, battling and getting their hands dirty and risking their lives to saves the lives of many. You could argue that in today’s modern age, because of the feminist movement and the battle women have faced to inch closer to equality with men that women in conflict is not a big of an issue than it was 70-100 years ago. One Sky news reporter, Alex Crawford is one of them women who risk everything to get the story to the people and sacrificing being with her husband and four children. From reporting in war stricken places such as Egypt, Libya and The Middle East she has gained an OBE and has become widely respected in the journalist community.
Not only have women battling their way through the rubble and shelling to fight for justice, women have been behind the scenes, making the decisions that can change wars, save lives or create chaos. Stereo-typically it is believed that women cannot make these decisions as they let their emotions corrupt their rational thinking and make the wrong decision. 1992 Stella Rimington was made the first female Director General of MI5, in charge of making life altering decisions and leading hundreds of people to make sure England is safe. Not only was she the first Director General of MI5, making history, she was also a wife. She balanced her life between being a loving wife at home with her husband and being a hard hitting, strong woman in a predominantly man’s world, constantly proving her worth. A colleague at MI5 stated described her as “Decisive, easy, confident, assertive and supportive”.[i]
When the First and Second World War broke out and millions of men were called up to National Service the women were left behind to take care of the home and make sure everything remained as normal as possible for their children, the community and collectively the country. Women became both mother and father and were quickly drafted into factories and work roles commonly reserved for men such as police women, public transport conductors and hard labour. Women risked their lives every time they clocked into to work in the munitions factory, working with harmful TNT, constructing bombs and machines. By 1918 one million women were in munitions work; These women quickly became accustomed to the inns and outs of guns, engines and shells however when the war was over and the men came home they were relieved of their roles and were encouraged to go back to their home making, man dominant lives.
All of these millions of women who risked everything and sacrificed so much for the sake of justice and safety of others would never be the same after the conflicts and wars had ended. The national fights might have ended but the fight for equality and rights of women still remains. It is the women throughout history and who are there on the front line today doing their job, just as good as the brave people around them that inspire the next generation of brave, strong women to carry on the fight for justice.
[i] Taken from The Imperial War Museum exhibit on Women espionage 2014