Written by Maria Olivia Laurent, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
Every night, I dream. I dream of a country where I can see an equal percentage of male and female policymakers sitting in our parliament and an equal distribution of wages and benefits in the workplace. I dream of seeing a rise of women in STEM and politics and a more diverse representation in the media where little girls can see themselves in these amazing women and say, “I want to be like her.”
Above all, I dream of a day where we can finally realize that fighting for gender equality is not just about people allowing more opportunities for us women to thrive in a man’s world. It’s so much more than that. It’s also about us acknowledging our identities and knowing we are deserving of our worth.
Today, on 8 March 2022, we celebrate International Women’s Day. We celebrate all amazing women around the world; mothers, doctors, workers, artists, technicians, athletes, teachers, creators, and many more. However, as we struggle to move forward in this turbulent time, we can clearly see the grievous impact of this pandemic on women’s lives. From losing a job, having to take care of the entire family, and being helpless amidst these rapid socio-economic changes, we see our fellow sisters being pushed backward and backward. To make it worse, this doesn’t just happen suddenly during the pandemic. This inequality has taken root in our society, rotting our beliefs and poisoning our minds, since centuries ago with discriminations against women in various fields; education, healthcare, media, workplace, politics, and society.
Yes, I do realize we’ve come a long way. We have female presidents, female astronauts, award-winning female filmmakers, and other inspiring women whose achievements forge the way for us. Some even might say that feminism has already reached its peak and we should be grateful instead of demanding more. But while I truly, truly hope gender inequality can end with our generation, the reality still doesn’t show that.
Our fight doesn’t end here. It doesn’t stop with those women only. It doesn’t stop with us. It continues to our children, and it may never stop with them UNLESS we educate them, the pillars of the future, of what we experienced today so they can learn from it.
We can break these generational-long biases. We can ensure a better and safer world for our little girls. We can do it now.
Teach them to say ‘No, this is not fair.’
In many fields, notably the workplace, men are generally portrayed as the ‘leader’ type with their achievement-orientation, direct approach to things, and autonomy. This is why many of our world’s leaders are still dominated by men. Meanwhile, the same lens that portrays that associated women with communal characteristics such as affiliation tendencies, emotional sensitivity, and caring nature. Basically, they see men as leaders and women as caretakers, and this preference toward men in positions of power affects women’s career growth and confidence.
So what if there is a female leader who shows emotions and concerns for others? It’s not a loss! Both employers and workers should work together to treat women with respect and give them credit where credit is due. The world needs more women leaders who will use their voice to say ‘NO’ to this workplace discrimination and allow equal opportunities regardless of any backgrounds. Companies should start breaking male leadership preferences and include women in critical discussions.
Begin the learning process from childhood
Stereotypes won’t disappear unless people realize it’s harmful. As adults and role models, we should show the right examples to our children and correct their assumptions with our actions rather than words only. In many cases, children grow up thinking they have to incline to specific gender roles such as boys can only play with masculine toys like robots and cars while girls are only given feminine toys like dolls. Here are a few things we can do to educate our children on gender justice:
- Don’t limit their activities.
Let them play with whatever toys they want! Toys are created to stimulate their skills. For example, robots target spatial skills, and dolls target sociability. Limiting their hands-on experiences will only stunt their development.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about racism and sexism.
Have an open conversation about the history of racism and sexism. Set examples that disabled women, women of color, and the LGBTQ+ can also become heroes.
- Allow them to express their emotions.
The term ‘boys don’t cry’ is an example of toxic masculinity and originates from childhood where parents shamed their children when they show emotions. Crying is not girly! Encourage our boys to develop their sensitivities and empathies so they can be more compassionate toward women’s struggles.
- Expose them to a diverse world.
Show them the beauty of diversity and representations of various cultures and races in the movies and books they consumed. This will help them understand that differences are part of human nature and it’s not something they should avoid. Let them explore!
The past is something we have to learn from so the present we live in now can impact the future. From the women warriors donning a man’s helmet to ride in the war, to the first women scientists and technicians helping in the industrial revolution, to the women around us challenging the norms in their own respective fields, years and years of this oppression will always stick with us if we do not act now.
It may not end with us. But it can start with us, with our voices, with our actions, with our movement.
Then, someday, I hope I can wake up and see my dream become a reality.
I truly hope so.
International Women’s Day. (2022). Breaking down barriers for women in leadership. Retrieved from https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Missions/15076/Breaking-down-barriers-for-women-in-leadership
Sanchez, G. R. (2018, December 20). How to educate children for gender equality. Believe Earth. Retrieved from https://believe.earth/en/how-to-educate-children-for-gender-equality/Toegel, I. & Lavanchy, M. (2019, March 7). How to beat gender stereotypes: learn, speak up and react. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/beat-gender-stereotypes-learn-speak-up-and-react/