As I think none of us missed, yesterday, the 8th of March, was International Women’s Day. It is personally a day that means a lot to me, where I always pay some extra thought to the people that has made my life easier through bold choices in policy-making, personal choices and the fight for equal rights. This year, as a student at Local Economic Development at LSE, I reached out to my classmates from every corner of the globe and asked them about their relation to the subject of gender inequality. The responses show just a little piece of just how global this challenge is, and how complex the issues can be.
Alice, France: “If old white men in our National Assembly could stop telling me (and women in general) what I can or can’t wear, that would be great (cf. Burkini controversy, a politician wearing a dress with flowers… nothing is good enough and f*** them”
Nicolas, Colombia: In Colombia, especially in the country side, women still do a lot if unpaid work (caring, cooking, etc.) This burdens their ability to cope with paid work and, therefore, helps explain the wage gap between genders.
Anežka, Czech Republic: I wish that it would be compulsory for fathers to go for part of the parental leave and that employers would give more part time opportunities and home office to parents (and other people as well)
Anam, Pakistan: In relation to women in South Asia, we need to break down the wall between unpaid reproductive work and paid productive work and recognise their interdependence.
Ayaka, Japan: This is how Japan is like… Education is important! (Watch the video: “Are Japanese Girls Really Dumb”
Liz, UK: How, in a planning team of 35, there are only 4 women. We have a long way to go in terms of the professional part of treating both genders equally.
Benjamin, France: I don’t have much to say, but whenever the issue is raised, it reminds me of Emma Watson’s speech at the UN in 2014. She makes a good point in my opinion.
Josh, Australia: “Australia defines part of its national identity through old “masculine” ideas like ‘being tough’ ‘not complaining’, not showing your emotions too much, physical work, being a real man…etc, which of course has problems for femininity because it makes it harder to break free from society’s traditional gender roles.”
Mathilde, France: “In France, one of the biggest issues is the gender pay gap. In 2014, women earn 24% less than men (and it is particularly marked among white-collar workers)…”
Astrid, Philippines: “The government is heavily impacted by catholic ideologies, using these as an excuse to prevent access to contraception, abortion and sex ed. This obviously hits women the hardest, as they bear the brunt of overpopulation, having to send daughters to work young to provide financially, maternal death, going into unsanitary and dangerous alternatives for abortion, and of course have no access to education”.
Saniya, Kazakhstan: “In Kazakhstan, we also have gender wage and career inequalities.”
Nora, Egypt: “In most cases in Egypt, it comes as a given that men are the breadwinners of the family, many men feel emasculated and insulted if women want to provide for the household and/or the children. Most women that choose not to conform to these societal ideologies end up being viewed as “too independent” or “lack respect for their husbands”. In addition, women that choose not to get married early or in their mid-twenties are patronized for being unwanted and are likely to be considered “spinsters”.”
Tahsina, Bangladesh: “In one hand Bangladesh is a country led by women for last 17 years at a stretch with high number of women’s participation in the parliament …On the other hand lack of female education, income gap and lack of women empowerment are some serious challenges. The prime minister wants to reduce the minimum age of marriage from 18 to 16 in the age of 2017! Which is frustrating…”
Jon, Canada: In Canada, most of the gender issues I’ve experienced relate to internalized and subtler forms of sexism, rather than sexism that is overt: e.g. assertive women are seen as bitchy, young girls that do well in school are praised for their innate talent whereas young boys are praised for their effort (leads many women to think they just “aren’t good” at things), women tend to underestimate themselves while men overestimate themselves (leading to many women losing out on opportunities because they don’t try), women tend to only apply for a job when they meet all the qualifications whereas men tend to apply even when they don’t, men tend to negotiate their salaries more, women are discouraged from STEM fields via stereotypes, double-standards concerning casual sex (although this is getting better in younger generations, I think), restrictive gender roles (e.g. for both men and women, such as who makes the first move in dates, but this is getting more flexible), passionate women in public speaking being seen as bitchy, while men are seen as just being passionate (a good trait), pressure on women to get married relatively early because of a biological clock (despite all modern statistical evidence suggesting that the idea of having kids in the 20-35 range need not be optimal), many womens’ tendency to defer and be submissive to authority figures, etc…”
Yesterday was an important day. As this post shows, no matter where you come from, there is still work to be done on all levels. It is done by confronting your own unconscious biases (whether you’re a man or woman) and/or contributing to radical change. By creating bold policies or being bold yourself. Our big and small contributions will push for incremental change, but please, not only on the 8th of March. The other 364 days, with no reminders, are the ones that really matter.
Photo credit: Tahsina Akbar