Letter of the Day | Celebrating our women and girls - #BeBoldForChange
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The international community paused yesterday to acknowledge the social, political, cultural, and economic achievements of women globally, as well as to encourage gender parity. The theme for International Women's Day 2017 is 'Be Bold For Change'.
In many societies, women are discriminated against and their voice given a back seat. Disturbingly, in some countries the female foetus is often aborted as many families view girls as a burden on the economics of the family and, therefore, no preparation or very little is made for them. The discrimination of girls and women globally is rooted in a patriarchal system in which the male gender is given pride of place, along with privileges and benefits attached to being male. Unfortunately, many men still identify women through sexist lenses for the sole purpose of pleasure served on a platter for the sexual entitlement to female bodies. It bears thought that sexual abuse, sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances are only some of the issues girls and women face daily.
View of entitlement
This view by men of entitlement to the female body serves as a catalyst for, among other things, the continuation of the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation of thousands of women and girls across the world each year. This violation of women's human rights has left numerous women scarred physically as well as psychologically.
In an informal online survey carried out recently, women identified safety as being among the most pressing issues they face. In Jamaica, the issue of gender-based violence is of utmost importance, given the fact that many of our womenfolk have been under attack from men in recent times. In order to empower women and girls they must first feel a sense of safety regardless of their socio-economic class. This sense of security must be experienced both in the public and private spheres.
Interestingly, except for the Nordic countries, as well as Rwanda, female participation in governance is woefully lacking. Women are generally discouraged from entering politics, and those who do enter must bear the brunt of unpleasant, sexist and unkind remarks. The society must encourage women to enter business and facilitate easy financing of same. We can and should do more work towards a more inclusive and gender-equal society. There needs to be more engagement of boys and men in discussions on gender relations.
At times, we are tempted to think that by excluding men from the discourse on gender and interpersonal relation the narrative surrounding women will improve. We need to encourage and foster a culture of conflict resolution in order to arrive at solutions for many relationships which have gone bad. Men need to give more support both in practical as well as in symbolic terms to the concerns and plight of women. It is only through attaining financial stability that women are going to free themselves from the vices and mechanisms which are in place to keep them dependent on men.