Empowering Women: Strong(h)er Together
- 12 Articles
- Age 18
For the past 18 years of my existence, I've always enjoyed the privilege of being surrounded by people who have told me that I'm able to do anything as long as I set my mind to it. As an only daughter who is constantly surrounded by strong, empowered women, my gender has simply never been part of the equation – being a girl should never pose a setback to any of my ambitions.
This privilege, however, is not shared by other girls around the world. According to UNESCO, there are 31 million girls of primary school age who are not in school, and 17 million of these girls will likely never enter school. Education is often viewed as a pertinent stepping stone to achieving one’s dreams and ambitions, yet many girls around the globe may never be able to realise their goals due to the deprivation of opportunities and lack of support from their communities, which continue to adopt traditional and patriarchal cultures.
Because of my privilege, my first experience with gender discrimination came as a sharp blow which left not only an acerbic taste in my mouth, but also a maelstrom of thoughts that whirled in my mind about the kind of experiences that other girls and women often face every day.
The first time I experienced overt discrimination – and perhaps even in the mildest of forms – was during a Lunar New Year celebration last year. An entrepreneur whom one of my relatives was working with had been invited to celebrate the New Year with our family. I was chatting with my female cousin-in-law, Sophia, when our relative introduced us, and proceeded to tell him that I was interested in journalism and politics. The gentleman asked me about the kinds of topics that I write about, and I told him that I was deeply invested in socio-political issues and the likes of it. He looked me up and down, and I will never forget the words that he directed at me. He nonchalantly commented, "Girls should just stick to writing about fashion or jewellery."
I was enraged. Just as I was about to snap, my female cousin-in-law stepped in to diffuse the situation. She smiled thinly and said, "She's a girl, but she can write about whatever she wants." Then she guided me away, and the both of us started a conversation over how troubling that man's response was. Though this action might have been a small one, it meant a lot to receive support from another female who decided to stand up for me.
Most females are able to relate to the issue of being unfairly marginalised or treated because of our gender. However, girl-on-girl hate arguably exacerbates this plight, where women do not provide support to other women and instead pit themselves against one another. When women do not offer a hand to women and instead put them down, the situation becomes extremely problematic, especially when we consider how the very communities in which we reside already deprive us of opportunities because of our gender.
Initiatives such as the UN’s HeForShe campaign are important, as they encourage men to support and uplift women in their respective industries and communities. However, more initiatives – such as Lilly Singh’s #GirlLove Challenge – should be introduced and encouraged, as buttressing other females is the only way we can overcome marginalisation together as a community. After all, isn't there an aphorism which goes, "Alone we are strong, but together we are strong(h)er"?