Every 8th March is marked as international women’s day. We see a lot of enthusiasm in organizations across the world promising change, equity, respect, and breaking gender bias. What we really need to do is measure the impact of our actions, is there a change in the status quo of women?
A few examples will refresh our memory and probably make us think critically about how we celebrate women. Women still fight to claim their right to education. In the 21st century, we have countries abolishing women from schools and colleges. Women in many countries do not have bodily autonomy; female genital mutilation is still a celebrated ritual; virginity is still a virtue in many cultures; and the right to abortion is a contested topic. The irony is all these decisions remain with the opposite sex. So even the right to make the decision about herself is not vested in women.
This essentially means we the women of the world are forced to agree with all oppressive, inhuman, unjust decisions about our lives, our bodies, and ourselves for centuries. Celebrating women on 8th March for the last 10 decades has not made much impact. It’s time to audit our actions to measure real impact. Auditing our actions at the grassroots level of changing the mindset would be a great place to start.
Here is where educators can make a big impact. Let us start a movement for teaching gender equality, women’s rights, and equity. Our content whether in international schools or local schools does not even come close to discussing or introspecting this issue. It is assumed that the mindset of millions will shift by marking a day in a year for women. Teaching something every day about gender equality and women’s rights would be more effective. A few things we can do as educators:
- Choosing texts and topics that are women-centered.
- Encourage young girls to opt for STEM subjects to get important jobs and careers that give them the opportunity to make important global decisions.
- School sports teams must give equal opportunities to girls and boys in terms of facilities, access, and training.
- Take away uniforms from schools, and allow students, especially girls to have an identity rather than prescribing an identity.
- Have gender-neutral spaces including toilets.
- Scrutinize the curriculum to take away toxic masculinity stories of war heroes and political leaders, and replace them with women entrepreneurs, activists, and even warriors.
- Include sex education and body awareness lessons in the school’s pastoral care program or health education.
- Put a ban on single-gender education.
- Make math mandatory for all girls till tertiary education.
- Teach financial mathematics or business management as a mandatory subject in the middle years to empower girls by learning about financial independence.
Some of these ideas may sound unreasonable and debatable, remember it isn’t as unreasonable as shooting a young girl for wanting to go to school. The bullet came from a man holding the gun who never went to school or who was never taught to think of women as equals.
Education can steer us toward the desired result. We need to learn from positive role models and women-centric stories. Some research on the positive impacts of gender equality has been recently documented. Countries like South Korea, Norway, and Canada are on a growth trajectory and enjoy a better quality of life due to an increased female workforce. Developing countries like Rwanda, Cuba, and the United Arab Emirates are making better decisions than first-world countries due to the increased percentage of women politicians. The success of the US economy has been with the number of women business owners increasing by 114% over the last 20 years.
So are we waiting for another women’s day or maybe not! Instead, as educators let’s take small actions every day to create a more balanced world. As educators, we have the power to empower women.