Sarah: “If you think women have all their rights, I would say you need to get out more.”
Issue XVII Emerging Empowerer
Written Interview by Spatika Sm
Sarah Little is a journalist and the founder of More to Her Story, a global platform and initiative amplifying the voices, stories, and ideas of young women and girls. She regularly contributes to international media outlets and think tanks, writing about women and girls. She hosts The More to Her Story Podcast, a monthly podcast featuring global leaders, experts, and young people advancing gender equity. In her free time, she raps.
Can you share when you first decided to create your organization? What made you so passionate about creating a world where women can live freely?
Sarah: I spent my childhood traveling with my parents (I had been to 40 countries by the time I was 17). When I was 11, we moved to the Middle East (Qatar), where I spent my middle school years. I moved back to the region (Jordan) when I was 20. I give that context because it’s easy to say: “Oh, there was this one moment that sparked my passion and made me want to do this work.” And while there have certainly been catalyzing moments, I think it was just as much a natural byproduct of being exposed to how women live all over the world from a young age and an innate desire to fight for those who have been silenced.
“More to Her Story” began with a simple objective: to amplify the stories of young Syrian women who had fled the war and were living in refugee camps. However, it was my time in Jordan that really affected me. My friends shared stories of their friends who were killed by their brothers over so-called ‘honor’ and the profound injustices they faced simply because they were female. My friends were frustrated at the lack of ways to talk about these very real, life-or-death issues. So, during COVID-19, I decided to launch the More to Her Story platform and podcast. The aim was to provide young women and girls worldwide with a platform to express their thoughts, ideas, and creative works while offering insights from experts and thought leaders on how to end global gender inequity.
How do you think listening to all the different stories of women has affected you? Do you think you have grown or changed as a person since you started the organization?
Sarah: Yeah, definitely. I think you learn from any significant life endeavor. I still have a lot to learn, though! How has this affected me? Let’s just say I am seeking therapy. I would advise anyone in this space to do so. It gets hard. And you can’t really anticipate the emotional and physical impact until it happens. One day, you’re lying on your kitchen floor sobbing, or a man whistles at you on the street, and you just explode because you’ve spent all day hearing from girls who are locked at home for no reason, and you realize you probably should see someone. I also know I can’t continue this work effectively if I am not in a healthy headspace or primarily operating out of anger instead of hope. We are all, but especially those who do this kind of work, in desperate need of hope.
What do you feel about anti-feminists? What would you like to tell people who don’t believe in feminism because they say women already have all the rights?
Sarah: Once, a man stopped me on the street in London intending to hit on me. When I told him what I did, he responded, “Oh, that’s funny. Because I’m kind of an anti-feminist.” I wanted to say “Not believing in a woman’s basic rights isn’t a great way to pick her up.” But unfortunately, many men share his view. So, to answer your question, feminism is the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. And if you think women have all their rights, I would say you need to get out more. Today, in 2023, we are seeing countries implementing gender apartheid akin to that of Black South Africans under apartheid. 178 countries maintain legal barriers that prevent women’s full economic participation. Globally, women still have only three-quarters of the legal rights afforded to men. But beyond legal rights, sociocultural norms continue to hold us back globally. In the UK, a third of men believe if a woman flirts on a date, raping her is fine, and 40% believe stealthing (the act of secretly removing a condom during sex) is not rape (it is). I use the UK as an example here to make a point about global attitudes toward women, even in countries with many legal protections in place.
How do you use your platform to raise awareness and educate people about the inequalities and unfairness that women from all around the world still face to this day?
Sarah: ‘More to Her Story’ is about amplifying the voices and stories of young women and girls, so I let them educate and raise awareness about issues unique to their countries. Stories, especially when coupled with data, are the most powerful tools we have to create tangible, lasting impact.
You have shared a lot of stories about the women of Afghanistan; is there anything in particular that draws you to them?
Sarah: I wouldn’t say I’m particularly ‘drawn’ to them; it just so happens they are living under apartheid. Many Afghan girls were a part of the More to Her Story network and community pre-August 2021. So, when the Taliban reclaimed power, many girls wanted to share their stories and tell the world what was happening on the ground in real time. Of course, I wanted to give them a space to do that, so we partnered with big media outlets to reach millions of people. I still hear from girls in Afghanistan every day; it’s a story that lives inside me. I often think, “Any woman could have been born anywhere, and this could have been me or anyone.” I live by these two quotes by Maya Angelou and Audre Lorde, two women who have inspired me my entire life – “Every time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women” and “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Can you tell us about any notable achievements or milestones in your journey for advocating for women’s rights? What impact have these accomplishments had on your work and the people you aim to support?
Sarah: Any time girls’ stories reach the world, it’s an achievement. Whenever girls tell me that they feel heard for the first time in their lives, I feel like this is all worth it, and it gives me the momentum to keep going.
On the whole, do you think society still has a long way to go before women can be seen as equal?
Sarah: At the current rate of progress, the UN says it will take 300 years to achieve gender equality. So, yes, sadly. We are seeing some countries make some progress, but it’s not near fast enough. I’m excited to share more about my next project which deals with this question directly.
Would you like to share any incidents in which you have faced sexism directly?
Sarah: I mean, I face sexism daily. Last night I was walking home from a friend’s place in London, and some guy shouted at me from his bike: “I’m going to stick my d*ck in your a*ss!” Something I wish men would understand is that women aren’t lying when they accuse men of sexually harassing or assaulting them. I wish they’d get that sexism is engrained in every part of society, everywhere, so when a woman says she’s been raped, harassed, or assaulted, it’s the norm, not the exception. Many men think it’s some crazy, one-off thing to harass or assault a woman, but it’s not. It’s standard; the exception is the outlier who doesn’t and chooses to say something when he sees it. The standard is men who speak about women like they’re objects before human beings, men who victim-blame, men who don’t believe women, and men who don’t speak up when they see something. If you feel personally attacked reading that, self-reflect and ask yourself why. Also, just for perspective, it’s estimated that less than 1% of rape allegations made by women are false—less than 1%.
RAPID FIRE ROUND WITH SARAH
What is your favorite book/ book series?
When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What is your go-to on a Friday night?
Which would you rather give up- sweet or savory?
If you could meet your past self, what would you tell her?
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Just This’ by Richard Rohr; I carry it with me everywhere.
A writer. I wrote my first book when I was 4 (hard-bound and everything!)
It depends where I am. In big cities like New York or London, I like going to clubs with good music and dancing. I love late-night, food-for-thought conversations with friends. I also love staying in and making music :)
Keep your eyes on what’s most important, and don’t lose focus.
I would include gender equity in school curriculums everywhere.
What are your goals and aspirations for the future of your platform? Are there any particular issues or areas you hope to address or contribute to in the coming years?
Sarah: Yes! Lots of new and exciting developments. I am stoked for the next phase of More to Her Story.