Being female today should mean freedom, equality, and safety. Protests in the name of women’s rights have been beneficial in white western society. However there is still a way to go and sadly a long way to go in some cultures. In poverty-stricken countries, girls as young as three are still being arranged to be married off to much older suitors in hopes of securing their future and reducing the financial burden on the family. Often subjecting girls to a life of physical, sexual, educational and medical violence. Women in all cultures and economic status are still experiencing sexual abuse. With numbers as high as one in three women. The reason is misogynistic society says men are allowed to and it’s a women’s fault. In fact, most countries have at least one actively sexist law. From India’s legitimate rape law to the UK’s unfair inheritance laws, through to married women in Yemen needing their husband’s permission to leave the house. These laws create a dangerous society for women, denies equality and institutionalises gender inequality.
Here in Australia, we deal with crazy and unattainable goals in all aspects of our lives. Our bodies must be a certain way that is unattainable even with surgery. As the images we are told are beautiful are photoshopped. However we are told not to use filters or get surgery because men want “real”. Then we are told men want the aesthetics advertised by celebrities. Women are meant to be smart and have a career. In the same breath, told not to be too clever as it intimidates men. We are asked to be confident, but when we are, we are told we are attention-seeking. We are told we can have a career, all the while still expected to do all the housework, childcare and work. Meanwhile the man can have his time away from work as leisure. And even with the triple workload of men, we are still only entitled to 60-80% of the equivalent wage of men in the same role.
So what does being a woman today mean? It means celebrating who we are; it means seeing how strong we are. It means speaking up to continually make life better for the next generation of women. Why? Because we are strong and we are heroes. We will be heard, we will be recognised and we will make a difference!
So how can you make a difference? First, let’s look at education. 63 million girls at any given time are out of school for many reasons. From poverty/financial restrictions forcing girls into work early. Through to being married off as a child bride. Yet studies show that the education of women in poverty is the no. 1 disrupter to the poverty cycle. Girls who complete primary and secondary schooling are likely to marry later, have fewer and healthier children, and earn more to educate their children properly.
An article in the guardian gives 12 steps to achieve gender equality in our lifetimes identifies 12 areas.
- Talk to girls and women and let them have a voice in the decision-making process.
- Let girls use mobile phones (in India, many aren’t allowed) and reduced access to technology limits education band career paths.
- Stop child marriage and sexual harassment.
- Make education gender sensitive. This is done by having gender balance in educational materials.
- Raise aspirations of girls and parents. Give them the confidence to dream and know that their dream is possible.
- Equalise mothers. By empowering them with knowledge, mothers can make better decisions for their children’s futures.
- Attribute value to women’s work. For example, equal wages are in line with the job, not the gender.
- Promote women into power. Women with decision-making power are still only one in four. Even in areas where women are seen as equal. Resulting in male-oriented policies.
- Get women into non-traditional roles such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), mechanics, building, driving etc., to break down stereotype barriers.
- Work together; girls and women know what their barriers are. So ask how can you help?
- Stop the violence. Self-explanatory really. Let’s teach our boys/men that violence is not the answer – not at school, not at home, and at the pub. Let’s teach them they are neither more nor less than another human being, regardless of gender or orientation.
- Beware of the backlash. When women push change, there may be a backlash – violence, sexual harassment, and gaslighting – stay strong. It means you’re on the right track.
You can also reach out to us at WMF for mentoring, support, education, and referral to support agencies using the links on the right-hand side.