Today feels like a sort of birthday for me. The international day for the elimination of violence against women. It featured quite heavily in my life in 2012.
A year ago, I attended the WAGGGS Europe Stop The Violence seminar. At the time, I was doing it because I wanted to learn how to facilitate learning in my unit roles, and because the girls themselves had asked me to take part. I never for a moment thought that we'd be challenged to speak out and take real, practical action, and couldn't imagine a situation where I'd feel comfortable being part of a movement acting for change.
One of the things that I've realised over the past year is that I'm not alone in that feeling. The situation for women worldwide is so horrific, so incredibly dire and overwhelming, that it feels like we're tiny drops in an ocean. How can one woman make any impact? But we can. We must.
Not everyone has to try and infiltrate News International (a la Yas Necarti) or lead a campaign. But every one of us has skills and talents that we can share and use to support our sisters, both locally and around the world.
Do what you know: You could retweet articles or statistics from the many inspiring women on Twitter, reply to them, engage in conversation and add your voice. You could do a sponsored event to raise money for a local (or international) women's charity. Attend women's groups, get involved in the community and meet others. I was going to say "start small", but it's not small - it's amazing.
Advocating for women's rights doesn't mean being on an international stage, necessarily, but being able to take action. Local campaigns often have a bigger "real-world" impact than some of the national ones that get lost. How about poster campaigns in schools or in the workplace, a flash-mob or getting a load of colleagues to volunteer at your local women's centre for a day or two?
Getting the media involved doesn't have to be scary either. Run an event and send them the details. Local press love to hear about local people. And with so many different forms of media these days, including the power of social media, getting word out there is easier than ever.
Every action has an impact. Every action reaches and touches someone else. Every action is important and worthwhile.
A year on, and I'm more determined than ever to fight. Speaking out against violence is tough, it's not easy to do and even less easy for people to hear. I've learnt that some will turn away or try to silence you, but I've learnt that it's worth it.
I've heard from other women who have been raped, who have been so grateful that they are not alone. I've heard from women who have self-harmed, who feel like there is sisterhood out there. I've heard from women who didn't know the reality facing their peers, and from women who felt like they've lost everything. Each and every one of these women has reminded me why I do this, even when it's difficult and even when it feels I'm having to make sacrifices.
Sometimes it feels like I'm just one voice, one silly little girl with a blog and a Twitter account. But then I remember that you're reading this blog and that people have read my Twitter feed. And suddenly, that's another silly little girl with a blog and a Twitter account. And we're not so silly anymore. Or so little.
I said at the start of this blog post that it felt like a sort of birthday. Admittedly, the seminar didn't start until 29th November, but there seems to be something quite special about celebrating the first anniversary of my empowerment today. Because this is where it all began, and where everything in that seminar tied back to, and this is what gave me my initial confidence and inspiration to speak out.
So in the tradition of birthdays, I think there should be gift giving. And possibly cake, but definitely gift giving. And the gift I want you to give is your voice. Find a tweet about violence against women and girls, or an article, or even make a promise, and spread the word.