Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but also a necessary foundation for a peaceful and sustainable world. It consists of equal access to opportunities, regardless of gender. Nowadays and despite all the developments the world is witnessing, all the feminist movements, human rights campaigns and the massive changes that have been realized so far, we’re still living in a world that underestimates women- a world where women are still considered weak, stupid, insufficient, unable to make a decision or have an opinion!
The fact that we are talking about women automatically gives the impression that men are the only one to blame, but what if women were also responsible for their own sufferance?
Of course we cannot deny the fact that men are also responsible for this problem as violence is directed by men specifically against women because they are women. It includes but not limited to physical, sexual, and psychological harm (including intimidation, inflicting suffering, coercion, and or deprivation of liberty within the family, or within a general community).
However, this is not our topic today. Before we think of blaming men for this, maybe we need to fix the problem within the group members first.
From an early age we were raised with the idea that only one girl can be the best, prettiest, the smartest, the coolest and have the cutest guy as if we were in a constant competition for our entire lives. In my opinion women should take time to think of the possibility that maybe there is no competition, maybe there is no first place and that instead of fighting, elbowing each other from the way and pull others down, we can actually help each other to become all winners before seeking gender equality.
WOMEN ABUSED AT HOME
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1 in 3 women worldwide has suffered physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner.
Some men think they own their females’ bodies and minds and have the right to treat them the way they want to.
One good example of this point would be the murder of the 21 years old young ISRAA by her relatives. Her life was cut short after posting a picture on Instagram with her soon-to-be a fiancé. According to Yara Hawari who wrote about the tragedy for AL JAZEERA.com, Israa’s family denied any wrongdoing and claimed that she had been possessed by an evil spirit and suffered a heart attack”
Thinking about this story differently, what if ISRAA got the support of her female family member? It’s truly tragic to think of woman enjoy or don’t mind seeing other woman getting hurt or abused.
WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE
“How to improve gender equality in workplace” reached Google’s top 5 searches around gender equality in the past year, which may be a proof that the gender equality at work is raising so fast and efficiently, but again women claim for equal rights and income like men but still fight each other. In workplaces, there is a different kind of competition where women accept to have a male leader but wouldn’t tolerate having a leader from the same sex, which makes standing against gender equality movement and female workers’ low incomes even harder.
Sheryl Palmer chairman, president and CEO of one of the largest home building companies in the US ‘Taylor Morrison’ called it a “tragedy” when women do not support each other at work because, according to her, ‘women should take the opportunity to embrace the need and help other women as compared to pushing them down’. Morrison is a great example of a female businesswoman who supports female workers as 49.2% of her workforce is female.
ISIRIKA IS THE ANSWER
During her tedX talk, Musimbi Kanyoro, CEO of the Global Fund for Woman, introduced us to a Maragoli (language of west Kenya) concept of ISIRIKA which a literal simple English translation would be equal to generosity but actually it means caring together for one another.
ISIRIKA has three main principals, and the most important principal is that people who have more have the privilege to give more, and it is the time to give more to women and who else can give a woman more better than another woman like her.
Kanyoro gives an example of her Global Fund for Woman that gave a grant to a Mexican woman named Lecero Gonzales of 7500 US Dollar who, 25 years later, has helped 2 million women in her community and spent 17.8 million dollars in the name of the fund.
Can you imagine what it would be like to spread this idea in the Arab world? Imagine every single woman who has the privilege to give more from her time, money, or knowledge tries to help another woman in her small community. Imagine women becoming more successful, well educated, and more powerful only then fighting gender inequality would come at ease.
The key to make this dream come true is first work on that mutual support called “ ISIRIKA” because together, women will make a difference and change the future of the next generations. Second, is to bring on more men into this conversation as some of the reasons usually offered to explain the persistence of gender inequality include large abstractions: patriarchy, capitalism, male self-interest, religion. These are, of course, useful categories to work with, but none of them can account for how deep-rooted these inequalities are in our psyches, our cultures, and our politics. And no one can deny the fact that gender equality cannot be achieved unless men also take action to support women’s rights.
The future is female.
*This Op-Ed was written as part of the 2019 YaLa Alumni Opinion Writing Course