March 8th is the International Women’s Day – and their theme for the year is #pledgeforparity – bridging the gap of gender inequality and thus enabling women and girls around the world follow their dreams. A noble aim, but sounds rather impossible when looking at the world today, where in many cases the gap has just increased and rights gained before have been lost. So it’s important we have a day like to highlight these issues and give praise to women, but we shouldn’t forget them for another 364 days a year, but try to use that time to improve the points highlighted on the women’s day.
If you are lucky to live in the Western World, then you have a great change for reaching the equality in everyday life – you’re likely to have a good education and opportunity to choose your career, have hobbies and live what we tend to call a “normal life” and in some cases even be paid the same amount for the same work you’ll do with your male colleagues.
However, there is a large number of girls and women who will not have that choice: for them dreaming about things is probably the best they can do, and in many cases they probably don’t even know what they could dream about. If your everyday life is a struggle to stay alive until the next day, if it’s all about survival, then what is the point of talking about equal salaries or representation on boardrooms?
I, of course, will support the #pledgeforparity, but after reading a story of a young girl working in a grim salt mine my Indian friend wrote in her new website, the Women of India , I tend to agree that asking for progress, rather than equality is as important, or maybe even more important. Progress is about improving living and working conditions, the salary, education, and human rights (for women, including the right to choose whom to marry, to travel alone or to drive a car) everywhere in the world, rather than just asking for parity in areas where there is quite a lot of progress already. It’s also providing the same for men, who will support and raise little girls put in this position, it’s a dependency. You need to provide basic needs before we can progress to the next level.
Although it seems that it’s often all about money that is not the case, it’s about being treated as a valuable human being, which has nothing to do with money. The happiest and kindest people I’ve met when travelling with my children have been people from Philippines and Sri Lanka, and many of them lived in what we’d call deep poverty, but that didn’t stop being kind, happy and cherishing their lives, whereas minor daily struggles and perceptions of not having “enough” in comparison to the neighbour seem to create a lot of extremely unhappy people in the western world…
Therefore I think that the big question is how can we aid to bring progress to both men and women, and what we, as individuals can do to help – in addition to just pledging on a website and donating money to support parity and women’s rights, and human rights in general?
I’d love you to read Deepti’s inspiring story of 11-year-old girl Bharti working in a salt pan in India, who, despite not having been to school and having worked long, physically straining days for pennies for quite some time still had the zest for life, but at the same time has been deprived of “normal” childhood and the ability to even dream of a different life. When we can bring progress to the most vulnerable around the world, we’ll eventually also bring more parity.
I shared Bharti’s story with my oldest daughter when we were discussing the importance of women’s rights and equality – firstly for her to understand how lucky she is having been born in Europe where gender equality and living standards are high. Secondly i wanted her to be able to put things into perspective, be able to reflect how insignificant her problems normally are compared to Bharti and many other children, but thirdly, and most importantly, to understand that she’ll be in a position to fight and help other girls and women around the world when she puts her minds are effort to it.
I wish you all happy International Women’s Day and would love to hear your ideas on how to bring progress and parity to our world, one step at a time.