Today is International Day of the Girl and conferences, events and gatherings are in full swing. People are talking about topics relevant to all people; be they old or young, across all ethnic groups, religious denominations, works of trade, sexual orientation and gender, but all centred around one unifying thought: the local and global impact of inequality in women and girls and what can be done to bring about positive change.
But this is more than just girls – it’s about everyone. The question of the day is how do we, as an international community, provide the greatest amount of freedoms and rights for all while still promoting peace, harmony and security for all human beings. It’s an easy thing to say that we should be all treated with equal rights, dignity and respect, but it is harder in application.
Why is that? Probably for a lot of reasons – a large portion of them owning to traditionalism, be it cultural or religious it doesn’t matter – ultimately it is still mindset that needs to be challenged and revised before true equality can be attained.
When I was still in my pre-teens, my father started taking part in National Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, which was eventually broadened to include all children irregardless of gender (http://www.daughtersandsonstowork.org/wmspage.cfm?parm1=936), with the aim to promote and inspire the youth.
The first time I went with my dad, he was working at a packing company. I can’t say that I was very inspired to follow in his footsteps there, but I did learn a lot about my dad that day, things that I took in and tried to emulate in myself. My father is a man who imagines things, he picks up concepts and puts them into his pocket to save for another day to be used like tools in a Swiss Army knife.
Watching my father work was like watching a Rube Goldberg machine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rube_Goldberg); you had a vague concept of where it was going to end up, but it wasn’t until the hammer hit the toothpaste that you realised what exactly was going on. Where people see a complicated mess full of mayhem, my father sees solutions ripe for the picking.
His skills were wasted in the profession he was in, truly, and he eventually moved on. But were it not for those chance experiences, I would not be the person I am today, which is why opportunities like these are so vital to everyone – girls and boys alike. No one should be shut out.
I am reminded of something my dad would say to remind us and himself the duty each person to conduct themselves in a manner that presents the highest degree of dignity and respect of themselves and to those around them. “My rights and freedoms end where yours begin.”
What does that mean? To say there is a limit to individual rights and freedoms is controversial when it is projected upon others. The best way I answer that is by asking another question: what ideals do all human beings aspire to have in their lives?
Equality and Freedom of Choice. The lack of these two things, rather the desire for them, I have observed to be at the heart of a great proportion of the issues with the world today. Where there is inequality there is dissent, hatred, rebellion and destruction. Where there is a lack of freedoms there is a lack of progress.
To those that would continue old religious doctrines to restrict the prosperity of women, I say this: We can be respectful of our pasts, forgiving of them even, but only if we can also learn from those experiences and grow beyond them. It is no mistake that the USA is one of the most religiously rich nations of the world, as its forefathers learned through personal experience the stifling nature of religious laws. They advocated for freedom because without it, spirituality is stifled. If you want faith to flourish, you must be prepared to let it go freely and evolve with the times. Much in the way religious texts have grown and changed with the times – it is because of this that you find contradictions, I feel.
And it will flourish with women who are free to make their own choices.
To those that would sacrifice the prosperity of their own culture for the sake of maintaining cultural traditions: There will only be things gained from investing in the minds and spirits of young women. Cultures that invest in the betterment of women do better themselves. To thrive and stand as equals among your fellow brethren, women and girls must be included in that formula for success. Is there a nation that has perfected it yet? No, but that does not make it impossible; it just means that there is an opportunity for yours to be the first. Be the first to champion equal pay, education for all, ending domestic violence, end rape and abuse, end child marriage, end genital cutting/mutilation, end victim-blaming, encourage companies to hire and promote women.
Give equal rights and freedom of choice to all of your citizens and reap rewards. The nation that does this first will be the next world superpower. The best minds will grow under your wings and will flock to your boarders, the greatest businesses will clamour to open up shops and boost infrastructure.
That is the point of International Day of the Girl, because when we all do better, we all do better.