As Americans we often feel that women are equal to men because women in the United States are educated, have the right to vote and hold the same positions in the workforce as men. However, equality has yet to be reached, both in the U.S. and abroad.
In many countries, women are still seen as objects, not humans. Their sole responsibilities are to reproduce and care for the home. They are robbed of education, property, votes, jobs and dignity. In the 21st century, how can we allow these conditions to remain and often even increase?
What are the benefits of treating women as equals?
If women are educated, they will want to wait to start a family and have fewer children; they will also be more likely to get a job. If women are able to work, they have more power in the household; they can send more of their children to school.
Well, if it’s that simple, why hasn’t it happened yet?
It is mostly because of prejudice against women, cultural traditions and the desire of men to keep power.
Schools are often located miles away from homes and traveling as a girl is dangerous because men rape them on their way; male teachers also take advantage of their female students. In some schools, there are co-ed bathrooms, which can also be a place of violence against women.
Girls regularly stay home from school during their menstrual cycle due to lack of sanitary napkins, which makes them fall further behind.
Because poverty-stricken women have many children, families often only send one child, usually a son, to school.
While many may believe that gender inequality is only present abroad, they are mistaken. For instance, in 2007, Lilly Ledbetter, an employee of a Goodyear tire plant in Gadsden, Ala., since 1979, discovered that she was being paid much less than her male co-workers and filed a lawsuit against the company. However, because she pressed charges after the 180-day period, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the charges. On Jan. 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, stating that charges can be pressed when the unequal pay rates are discovered.
How can we do anything here to empower women around the world? We can start by supporting organizations and causes working toward equality.
Sunday, March 8, marked the annual International Women’s Day. IWD began in 1911 as an attempt to attain every woman’s right to vote.
Today, IWD commemorates the achievements women have made and reminds others that 100 percent equality has not yet been achieved. The day is celebrated with rallies and events and countries such as Russia, China and Armenia consider IWD a national holiday; however, the U.S. does not.
Another way to get involved in the issue is through microfinance, a program that lends money to people, especially women, in impoverished countries to start small businesses. Kiva.org is an example of microfinance program and anyone can lend a loan for as low as $25.
Women have made great strides in terms of equality over the last century; however, they still have much father to go.