Our girls deserve better

I remember a discussion about women empowerment at an international event not too long ago. A fellow participant shared her personal experience. She had decided to further her studies and pursue PhD. That decision wasn’t exactly well received by her family. They were in fact more concerned with her sister and her upcoming wedding. There were barely any words of support or encouragement throughout. She recalled what was clearly one of her most important moments of her PhD, there was not one phone call to wish her well.

Halfway through her story, she teared up.

By the end of her story, we all teared up.

Until women everywhere are not made to feel like they made a wrong decision by choosing education over domestic life, we still need feminism. We still need to talk about gender inequality. Would a son be shamed for pursuing education over other things in life? That’s my point. And this is only one aspect.

Yet with the recent happenings and remarks, it does not feel like we are heading in the right direction.

Some quarters would say that the remarks in Parliament were taken out of context. I don’t intend to rehash the arguments here, though I will say that the girl’s right to education was barely a concern. I cannot see how child marriages, early pregnancy and early parenthood will not disrupt a girl’s studies and not cause a bleak future for her.

Something is not right when a female college student is made to feel like she made a wrong decision by exposing a chat group conversation consisting of inappropriate remarks towards fellow female students (This is according to the student’s account. The college has yet to respond to this). I don’t even know where to start. It is disturbing that our male youths think it is perfectly fine to make rape jokes. Something is certainly not right that the whole situation culminated in her having to leave and transfer to another college.

We need to instil from young that our girls and boys are of equal worth and therefore deserve equal respect and equal attention. Instead of dismissing it as “boys will boys”, we need to tell our boys that catcalling at girls is not cool, does not make them look cool and is disrespectful. We must stop perpetuating the thinking that for all the social ills in this world, it must be the women’s fault. Instead, let’s teach our boys respect and kindness towards everyone around them.

We need to impress on the young that if a girl wants to be a rocket scientist, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her and that she should go for it, instead of asking when is she finally going to get married.

By “we”, I mean every structure of the society – the family unit, the school, the politicians, corporations. Everyone.

This is more than a subject in school. It’s a life lesson, on how to become a respectful adult, a decent human being.

We hear some say that feminism is too unrealistic, too unreasonable, too “angry” a cause, that it’s a western concept, that gender equality is a non-issue.

No.

Let’s not let our girls down by dismissing gender inequality, like we always do time and time again.

Our girls deserve better.

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