The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

International Women’s Day 2018 – #PressforProgress

on March 9, 2018

Following the momentum of important gender equality issues that were raised since last year’s International Women’s Day, this year’s theme focuses on #PressforProgress.

What exactly does gender equality mean to you and for you? Do we even think about it enough. And what are we doing in contribution. It’s only been in the last few year’s that I’ve taken a closer interest in what the campaign is all about for that year’s International Women’s Day.  I feel I’ve been on the periphery of real action towards any chance of achieving real equality for all.

As a parent of three young children, I feel, I hope that so far Husband and I are raising them without it being based on gender specifics. I want them to just be as they are. But sometimes, even at such a tender age, I find that I have to challenge their perception of themselves.

“I don’t want the girl plate.”  But do you want what’s on the plate?

“That’s a boy top.” Would you rather be warm or cold?

“Girls/Boys can’t do that.” Yes they can. There’s nothing girls and women can do that boys and men can’t do. And because my daughter is going to be a future trailblazer, she says to me but “Mummy, Daddy’s don’t have the babies.” Ok, that is true but without the Daddy contributing in some way, there would be no babies.

That to me also sums up the journey towards gender equality. It is not just a women’s challenge but also men’s too. We fortunately live in an age and a part of the world where more and more men are vocalising the need for equality. Conversations with a good friend gives me hope that our children will be faced with a more equal, kinder future. At the same time, we will be raising them to be strong, resilient and brave. And that’s not easy to do because at times you’re challenging not just society’s view on gender equality but also the views of people around you.

The throwaway comments that include gender bias annoy me the most. As do using gender as an excuse for behaviour discrepancies. Children are highly impressionable and easily influenced by what the grown ups around them say. Pressing for progress means being mindful of what you say around children that undermines their ability to do something because of gender or even undermining your own ability because of gender. I know this makes some people feel like their hands are tied. Comments like not being able to say anything because it’s considered inappropriate or politically incorrect. Everyone’s brain and mouth should have that filter. Even if once it wasn’t necessary, times have changed and if we strive to keep up with all the latest fashion and technology, then we sure enough need to keep up with the changing way of thinking.

For years I glossed over gender inequality in my own culture. It’s no secret that in Asian culture males were thought of more highly than females. But to be honest, in my own experience, I never felt it hindered how I lived my own life thankfully. My Dad, Mr Li, was such a risk averse man that I think he would have fretted over everything I did regardless of my gender. And yet, he never stopped me from doing anything that I chose to do. And that is hugely important.

During my time in Singapore and living closely to other countries where gender equality really will take 200 years to achieve, it opened up my eyes to the privilege that we do have. We have access to good quality education, careers and the right to choose where we want to be. Yes, we still have some distance to go otherwise all the conversations going on today wouldn’t be taking place. But I’ve caught a glimpse of women without this privilege. It was hard to delve too deep into the lives of the helpers who worked for us in Singapore. To hear of the lifestyle they led and the reasons why they left their homes and families to come and work as a domestic helper in a foreign country at great risk and cost. Poverty and lack of education was usually the driving force. But even those who were educated professionals in their home countries said that working as a foreign domestic worker paid more than their previous career. And whilst these women are able to provide a new home, education for their children and a life of less hardship for aging parents, the sacrifices are huge.

Reading up on the stories that have been shared today show us how much there is left to do and perhaps it will take 200 years for true equality. However we are the generation that will sow the seeds of change and change needs to start somewhere. It starts with us and being able to press for progress and change perceptions of what gender equality should really mean.

Here’s to raising a new generation that will respect themselves and each other with equality, understanding and kindness.


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