What #MeToo changed for women around the world

By: AFP
Published: 01:16 PM, 29 Sep, 2022
What #MeToo changed for women around the world
Caption: Hollywood actresses and others part of a group of Silence Breakers who have fought for justice by speaking out about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, gather during a press conference.–AFP (File photo)
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The birth of #MeToo in the United States in October 2017 gave millions of women around the world a powerful rallying cry to denounce sexual violence.

The movement led to an outpouring of survivors' accounts. AFP spoke to five women here:

- 'Opening up' -

Before #MeToo, rape was "not something we could just talk about," says Nazreen Ally, 43, who lives in Durban, South Africa.

The manager of a security company went public about being raped at 13.

"Many women opened up to me once I started talking about my story. And I realised there were other women suffering as well, who were violated and abused but they just didn't talk about it," Ally told AFP.

"I started opening up more and more and showing women that they can do it too."

- 'Encouraged' -

"I never thought one day I would tell my story and reveal my secret but reading several testimonies... encouraged me," said a 26-year-old Tunisian beautician, who was sexually assaulted as a child.

"It's as if something in me has been unlocked. It made me more determined to change my life, to be happy. I became stronger and I no longer want to be a passive person who fears everything," she said on condition of anonymity.

Her parents fiercely opposed her filing a complaint, fearing she would be rejected "in a society that unfortunately is still very conservative".

"I decided to raise awareness and I began with my parents, my sisters, my aunts, my cousins. I try to make them understand that to have a rape victim (in the family) is never something shameful," she said.

- 'Still struggle' -

A 36-year-old US woman told AFP that shortly after she began an internship with a congressman in Washington in the early 2000s, a staff member invited her to dinner.

She refused but maintained a friendship with the man, despite his "inappropriate comments".

"I would just shrug it off and make excuses," she said, declining to give her name.

"Fast forward and the #MeToo movement happens, then allegations come out against him," she said, adding it "really made me reassess my younger years".

"The experience was very eye-opening for me. I'm so used to men making inappropriate comments, unfortunately, that to me, the staffer's comments had become normalised.

"I still struggle with the way that women are treated in the city. I've heard men make comments about my appearance, my looks, even my weight.

"I got the sense that people still think they're above the law here or that they can still get away with things because they're in a position of power."

- 'Not alone' -

Gabriela Ortiz, 26, was sexually assaulted by a friend of her partner, who was aware of what was happening, one evening in Mexico.

Motivated by the avalanche of denunciations during the #MeToo movement, she filed a legal complaint.

"There are starting to be many complaints and I understood, even if it may sound cliched, that we are not alone," she told AFP.

The movement also encouraged the employee at a financial services company to denounce her attackers on social media.

- 'Gave me confidence' -

"I was a feminist in theory, but I did not dare apply" it in real life, said Karine Zerbola, 49, the manager of a bar in Annecy, a town in southeast France.

She now remains steadfast to her convictions. For example, she no longer tolerates sexist jokes.

#MeToo "confirmed to me that the behaviour of some men in the past was disrespectful and it was not normal", she said.

"The movement also gave me confidence in my way of managing people in my company," she said.

"I hire as many men as I do women and everyone does the same work," she said. She also provides conflict management training to her employees.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.