I'm a friend of Allie Shep and, like her, my life HASN'T been one of hardship on the level of millions of women worldwide, some of whom have told their heartbreaking stories here.
And I'm not pretending it has been. My family had a small house, enough money to survive, and TWO bathrooms (one outside)! But, unlike Allie, I've had a sexist upbringing which I've had to fight against.
My story begins in 1990 Scotland. I was born to a god-fearing mother and an overbearing and angry (but not always with me!) father. My sister, A, had been born 19 months earlier; my brother, J, came along 3 years after me. Now, if you're thinking, maybe my parents wanted 1 son and1 daughter, and I was the 'unwanted' middle child, you'd be right. But no, I don't mean that I was ignored or scolded (not very often anyway), merely thought of after my sister and - ESPECIALLY - after my brother.
He was the pride of my parents (after all, he had his own "thimble", as my sister and I called it), and A was seen as his keeper; she looked after him when mum or dad were otherwise occupied. Of course, I also looked after him. By the time I was 6, I'd regularly washed his face, dressed him, tied his shoes, fed him, and helped him use the toilet (which was a continual joke between me and my sister - a 6 year old girl showing her brother how to pee!).
My father did love all of us, but if he only had time to converse with 2, it was my brother first, then my sister. He was interested in J's schoolwork and A's painting, but my increasing interest in books and poetry was of no concern to him.
And where was our mother? At work. My father more or less ran a printing company (yes really - so you'd think he'd have shown an interest in my hobbies), but he didn't make enough money to keep a wife and 3 children, so mum worked at a bakery 4 days a week. My sister was 8 by this time so she was responsible for myself and J getting home from school. Mrs Thomas next door 'looked out' for us when we were home.
My sister would find the food our mother had left for us, and she and I would prepare it, while J played with the boy next door. Quite likely he'd scrape his knee or cut his finger, so the first aid kit would be at the ready.
I would comfort him while A washed him and applied the plaster(s).
After tea the 2 bathrooms came into their own. The primitive one outside had no hot water, so was of course the one I used! But that did at least mean I had time for a cold (or maybe lukewarm) shower or to wash my hair without any interruptions.
The indoor one was of course fit for J to be bathed by A, so she ensured that he was spotless (and had emptied his bladder) before he went to bed.
And when he was finally IN bed, A and I would talk. At first it was everyday things (TV, school, colours) but soon we started to discuss our positions within the family.
"I'm a slave, you're a sub-slave", said my sister one evening.
I think it was that simple sentence which made me realise 'our lot' in life - to help our parents AND our brother, to help our parents RAISE our brother, to then marry, have children ourselves and start the circle all over again with our girl-children working as slaves to our boy-children.
And no girl ever getting thanked for it!
We were cruder than that then. She and I referred to girls and boys as sits and stands - and we took that analogy to extremes - girls and women sit because they're worn out looking after boys and men, and are then supposed to simply watch and praise the adventures their brothers and husbands have while standing. (You see, you thought I was being rude!)
And, 18 years later, that still seems to be the case. I'm now a (trainee) lawyer, but my parents and other relatives still expect me to find Prince Charming and have children - then "give up" work ("lawyers are men" as my mother once said) and look after them - the children AND my parents.
So my struggle isn't one of poverty or personal assaults (and I would never compare it with some of the stories on here), but it is one of comparable hardship just BECAUSE I was born female.