“I raise my voice not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” – Malala Yousafzai
At the current rate of progress, it will take another 108 years to reach gender parity, according to the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, which benchmarks 149 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions—Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment.
That is a long time for women to face inequalities! We should not have to live in a world designed to limit our endless potential. According to Sheryl Sandberg, we need “to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.”
I dream of a day where my experiences and those of my sisters defy the current norms…
- where women can walk the streets safely without fear of violence or sexual exploitation
- where intimate partner sexual abuse is not widespread
- where women are valued enough to receive equal pay for equal work
- where implicit bias does not hold women back from opportunities for corporate success
- where working women are not expected to shoulder the majority of unpaid care work – currently women do three times as much unpaid care work as men
- where women are no longer the more vulnerable to food insecurity, instability, and homelessness brought about by the effects of climate change
- where female pain and medical issues are taken as seriously as they are for men
- where women are not under-represented in government which leads to existence or propagation of laws that disadvantage us
And this is not just rampant across so-called “third-world” developing countries. According to a 2021 World Bank study, the U.S.’s lack of laws around parental leave, equal pay, and equal pensions did not even place it in the top thirty countries that offer women full legal equality with men. Only ten countries scored a perfect 100 percent in terms of legislation ensuring equality. TEN COUNTRIES!
“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to make things better”– Robert F. Kennedy. Soroptimism literally means “the best for women,” and this global volunteer movement, of which I am a member, works to transform the lives and status of women and girls through education, empowerment and enabling opportunities. All our projects align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.
I, for one, intend to do my part in contributing to the upliftment of women and girls. That means:
- advocating for gender equality as we do routinely on International Women’s Day and on the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, and throughout the year via our projects
- educating ourselves and others on current disparities and developing projects that help women and girls in our society advance their status and achieve their aspirations
- challenging everyday biases and stereotypes in our conversations and interactions
As an added bonus, I have a network of sisters who not only support one another but enjoy working together to build friendships and change lives; and who remind me every day of Michelle Obama’s words-“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish”!
Written by Candace Maharaj