Inspiring the future for girls
INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day is celebrated around the world on March 8 each year. Thousands of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. This is a global event celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women — past, present and future. Organisations, governments, charities and women’s groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues. Each year the United Nations declares an overall International Women's Day theme. The theme for 2012 is ‘Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures’.
International Women’s Day, with the passage of time, has moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives. Today schoolgirls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, and they have real choices. Women also created history. Today, we have female astronauts and prime ministers. Women are competing with men on equal footing in various fields. However, despite the achievements, we still see instances of gender inequality because the attitude has always been biased, that the boy child is more valuable. To alter that mindset, first and foremost, we need to empower ourselves with the knowledge of the natural differences, roles and responsibilities between the two genders and to never let gender superiority come in the way. We need to empower our girls and boys with such education. Because, in the end, it is our upbringing that eventually make up our minds about so many things later on in life. Things we learn from childhood are stuck to our minds to the point that sometimes we start living it.
We can involve, educate and inspire girls by promoting women’s equality and assist women to reach their full potential. People still generally associate men with mathematics and science, and women with the humanities and care-giving fields but by developing women’s competencies and ensuring their equal access to all fields it will widen their talents and perspectives. Quality education is the most fundamental basis for advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. Empowered with such an education, and the self-confidence that comes with it, there is no limit to what women can do provided they have equal access to job and career opportunities and the determination to change the world.
In the context of Bangladesh, one of the tenacious challenges that stand in the way of education of girls is sexual harassment. Harassment does not only crop up by stalkers on the streets but it can also be in the hands of the male teachers or students. Whatever the nature of harassment is, it leaves a huge negative consequence to the lives of the victim girls, as many of them are forced to drop out from education, married off early and ultimately cannot utilise their full potential as citizens of the country. As a result, we miss out their contribution to our nation-building process. Yet some girls can still make their way by overcoming all the hurdles and challenges. Many of them shine in their later life as doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, politicians, social workers and as all sorts professionals that were considered men’s field in the past.
The good news is the realization is there now. With the increasing awareness in the media, which reflects the thoughts of society, people from all strata of life are joining efforts to curb sexual harassment and violence against women. There can be seen many small collective initiatives against this social problem. And there is hope that the future is inspiring. Everyone understands that the culprits are numbered but the good people are many. And when the good people stand united, anything is possible.
So let’s make a difference. Let’s do our bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding not just on International Women’s Day but every day.
Shaheda Ferdouse Munni
Coordinator, Steps Towards
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