Press for Progress

Feminism. A word that had more people scratching their heads this last year than any other word, according to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary. In spite of this, whenever you talk on the topic, you are often faced with awkward gazes, silence or fierce resistance from both men & women.

Let me clear one thing – feminism does not mean man-hating. It does not mean a 360-degree shift from a male-dominated to a female-dominated society. No! It just means to have a world in which both men & women are treated on a par.

Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practised no cruelties. Its battles have been for better health and education, for the vote, for better working conditions and self-development, for safety on the streets, for child care, for social welfare, for rape crisis victims, women’s refuges, reforms in the law. If someone says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,” I ask, “Why, what’s your problem?” Women are leaders, innovators, and more-often-than-not, the conscience of our souls. The way in which we think of ourselves has everything to do with how our world sees us and how we see ourselves successfully acknowledged by the world.

Why is that after so much awareness and acknowledgement of a woman’s contribution to life, society, family and work; saluting her strength, resilience, sacrifice, she still is considered second to men?

A woman is a full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform. Are men to blame for this? Not really, I would say. Most often we don’t realize our true potential and what all we are capable of doing. Why is that? Because deep within us somewhere, it has been ingrained for generations, that we are not capable of much.

Ratan Tata’s quote about how nothing can destroy iron except its own rust rings true here. One’s mindset and lack of self-esteem can do more harm to one’s self than any other thing in the world. Here, it’s not just women’s support that will matter, but men’s support also, without which true empowerment cannot be achieved. For men play very important roles –Father, Brother, Grandfather, Uncle, Husband, Son, Teacher, Adviser and Friend.

I “allowed” her, is the biggest mistake one can ever make. By allowing someone, you consider yourself to be in an authoritative control position, which is incorrect. That is not equality. Empowerment does not control. Famous leaders and personalities we know of, such as Barack Obama, Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London), Prince Harry, Daniel Craig play a crucial role in supporting this cause, proving that to be a feminist, you do not have to be a woman: men also play a crucial role in this act.

Did you know there are 7,000 newborn babies dying every day? That means, as you read this, a new mother is grieving the loss of her child. The scale of these losses is unthinkable. And it’s preventable. You can do something about it by raising your voice to demand affordable, quality health care for every mother and newborn.

Knowledge is power. Educate every girl & women in the highest field that she desires, and do not compel her to choose a field of your choice. Let her excel and pursue her passion. Promote female success in your workplace by improving recruitment practices in order to encourage gender balance, or by supporting female talent at the start of their careers by offering internships or young women leadership programs.

One of the major issues to be addressed at a professional level is the gender pay gap. There are several ways in which this issue could be fixed. This includes providing paid leave and subsidized or on-site childcare, improving the culture around flexible work timings in order to meet the work-life balance, evaluating recruiting practices: Moms At Workin UAE is one such example of focusing on the recruitment of new or young mothers.

Along with the gender pay gap, another striking issue which should have zero-tolerance is harassment. Whether it is mental, physical or sexual harassment, it must stop immediately. No human on this planet has the right to harass any other human for any reason whatsoever. All these issues can be addressed and reduced if we avoid a major factor called the “unconscious bias”. This is directly proportional to word association. Doctor? Professor? Boss? Leader? Mentor? What came to your mind when you read these words? Males? What if I said these were all females. This silent yet powerful force is exactly what is known as unconscious bias where we perceive/categorize something to be the way we would like to see it, failing to accept that there could be another way. This mindset should change. It’s about waking up, becoming conscious of this bias as a function of the brain’s default categorizations, and then learning to override it.

We all look up to strong, independent women. But how do we become one ourselves? There are two ways of spreading light …To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. By honouring yourself and treating yourself with respect, you set the stage up for others to treat you with respect. Developing a great self-esteem, believing in oneself, having a never-say-die attitude and most importantly, by supporting other women. Women themselves set the sails towards true women empowerment.

Individually, we’re one drop but together we’re an ocean. Let us press for the progress of the nation. Let us commit to a “gender parity mindset” via progressive action. Let’s all collaborate to accelerate gender parity, so our collective action powers equality worldwide.

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