Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Equality: Personal & Political

I’m sure many of you know this already, but yesterday was International Women’s Day. Every year on March 8, various organizations, governments, and people around the world plan events, campaigns, days of action, and so forth to celebrate the advancement of women and to plan for the future. The United Nations chooses a theme each year, and this year’s theme was “Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all.”

When I heard this year’s theme, I thought it was an interesting one. For those who don’t know, this year marks the 15th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing. This conference set up goals for countries around the world to improve women’s rights and this year various organizations have put out reports and documents tracking how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. I’m pretty sure the U.N. had this somewhere in their minds when they came up with this year’s theme.

But we can also look at this theme in a different way. Rather than simply looking at it as a reflection on politics, we can make it personal: as a commitment to the future not only for the world but for ourselves. Last week, I attended Women Hold the Solutions, an event hosted by Global Fund for Women. One of the panelists spoke about how difficult it is to raise children to be equal. Because parents themselves are products of societies where not everything is equal, they pass those ideas on to their children without realizing it. Around the world, mothers might find themselves demanding more from their daughters in terms of housework and chores, or urging their sons to take on more wives. Similarly, most of us do the same thing when we’re around our friends and families. We don’t expect or demand equality in all areas, so progress will always be that much slower.

I plan on taking some more time this Women’s History Month to think about how we can advance equality on all fronts. Just because International Women’s Day is over doesn’t mean we can’t keep it in mind for longer.

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