by Judy M McCutcheon
It is now 25 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted at the 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China.
According to UN Women, it’s the most progressive roadmap thus far, for the advancement of women and girls everywhere. As the world pauses to reflect on the “how far we have come” in terms of the gender equality movement, I ask that we reflect on our actions and the things we do to advance or stunt this movement. Women are the life force behind human sustainability and the driving force behind the fulfillment of dreams and aspirations. So, for me, the fact that we still need a movement to take us towards gender equality tells a compelling story.
As we send greetings for International Women’s Day, let us not do it superficially, but instead, let us reflect on what this progress has meant so far and how we want it to look going forward, because we have the power to shape that destiny.
How many times do we see injustices right in our homes and in our communities and turn a blind eye? Our daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, nieces, and friends are being abused sexually, emotionally, and physically, and we keep it quiet for fear of shame and ridicule. What message do we send with those actions? We are the ones who birth and raise those men, who are hell-bent on treating us as unequal. When we treat our boys superior to our girls when we give them a better seat, rather than an equal seat at the table, what is the message being sent? When in the name of culture and tradition, we subject our girls to kitchen and house duties and deny them the right to an education just as our boys, what message are we sending? When in the name of culture and tradition, we rob our girls of their natural desires, what are we telling them? When we misinterpret the Bible and subject our girls to submissiveness and teach them that their sole existence is to be of service to men, what messages are we sending? And then we ask for equality? Our law books are replete with old, outdated laws, that hinder the progress of women. What have we done and how hard have we done it to strike out those archaic laws from our books? This is not meant to take away from the formidable work already done by some remarkable women in advancing our cause. I wish to salute and recognise them for a job well done. However, I want us to reflect on our actions and how each of us in our way can advance our cause faster.
So, when we say equality, what exactly do we mean? What do you understand it to mean, and what does it mean for you? Does it only mean equal work for equal pay? Does it mean to have an equal seat at the table in the bedroom and the boardroom? Often, women work double or triple, to even be considered for equal pay or to get a seat at the table. Why are we asking for the same pay? I want the salary that equates my work, my time, my education, and not what is equal to the work of a man. Maybe it’s time we turn this thing on its head and look at it from our perspective, through our lens and not through the lens of a man. I am not against celebrating women and our progress, but I want us to take a different view of things, I want us to do things on our terms, and not on the terms drawn up for us by men, even if those men love us undyingly.
I want to bring my emotions with me. We talk about women being too emotional on the job, but how are we then supposed to be, since emotions are a big part of who we are. Are we to detach our emotions and put it in the locker in the lunchroom, while we go and toil for wages that do not reflect our best efforts? Maybe just maybe, when we are raising our boys, we allow them free access to their emotions, we might have more humans on the job. Let us remember who we are always and the power we have to make this world a kinder, gentler, and much better place to live. I want a world where 25 years from now, my daughters are not holding the same placards with the same words written on them, marching for equal rights for women. Let us raise a generation of men who understand that we are all humans entitled to the same inalienable rights.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net