With each step forward the struggle for gender equality continues

Illustration courtesy of Think Big, Start Small

Illustration courtesy of Think Big, Start Small

On March 8th we’re called to recognize the role of women in our society and express our appreciation for women around the world. While a day like International Women’s Day is positive in places like Sweden and Canada, it also provides the opportunity to learn more about the plight of women around the world.

From severe and public cases of rape in India, to changes in legislation affecting women in the United States of America, women continue to battle for the same freedoms that are so easily and freely available to other groups in society, i.e. men. Women continue to struggle for equality.

My life is vastly different now than it would be had I been born in Iran. My parents and older brother fled a country where citizens, especially women, continue to face daily struggles of oppression and inequality. I am fortunate to have been born in Sweden, and raised in a fairly gender neutral and developed country.

Sweden, with its state-funded childcare as a cornerstone of gender equality, gave my mother the opportunity to return to work soon after having me. Childcare; this simple, yet often neglected, part of society gave my mother more choices. Having the freedom to drop me off at daycare at 6:30 a.m. made it possible for my immigrant mother to pursue an education, make a living and get ahead while helping raise a family alongside my father.

When we improve women’s equality, we improve society as a whole, and childcare seems to be an effective approach for Sweden. By no means is Sweden perfect, but I do appreciate and value the incredible equal opportunities offered to women.

This serves as a personal example of the positive steps we have taken to empower women, and there are more stories out there about women empowering themselves and others through leadership by example and social change through action.

Day in and day out I am surrounded by women who make a significant difference in the workplace, in their homes and to the lives of those they have dedicated themselves to. They are more than just mothers, wives, sisters or daughters, they are mobilizers and they exist to drive our society in a better direction.

In light of international women’s day, and to further push the cause of equality for women, a group of global women and I got together to support and showcase the inspiration and the plight of women. The YWCA Canada “Think Big/Start Small” campaign is an effort to use our voices, raise awareness and inspire youth. The campaign focuses on highlighting eight remarkable women from six different continents who have overcome adversity, inspired youth and improved the global community in one or more of the following areas: education, poverty, youth, technology, equality, violence and the environment.

We all chose to write about a woman who has inspired us. Whether these women actually inspired a change, started a movement or fought for equal human rights, all of these women, are collectively making a change. The central idea here is to show that no effort to make a change is ever too small or too big.

Clearly, the different obstacles in the fight for women’s equality in Vancouver, Canada compared to Kabul, Afghanistan are rather unfair. But the heart of the effort is that we’re all fighting the same fight. Not the fight to be better than any gender or to have special rights, but the fight to have equal opportunity and access to basic human rights. The type of freedom that gives you the choice to exercise your equal rights as you wish.

The day we reach equality is the day we no longer talk about it. Until then, I remain optimistic and proud to be a woman in a time where growth and development is the only way forward.


Visit http://www.SonjaBe.com to read the women highlighted since March 1