Not just a day

Ending equality between women and men is not about “giving” power to women. International Women’s Day gives us an opportunity to reconsider the misconceptions and stereotypes that abound.

Every year, the calendar is packed with dates to mark or promote certain causes.

There are days against human trafficking, and days to celebrate mothers and fathers. There’s even an International Speak Like a Pirate Day.

Blue Dragon rarely acknowledges these symbolic events. For us, what matters most is the day to day work of defending people’s rights. We roll up our sleeves and do what needs to be done, rather than focusing on specific dates.

International Women’s Day is a little different.

With women and girls around world still having less chance of education…

still being paid less…

still having less voice over their own lives and bodies…

still being harassed and facing violence because of their gender…

and with many families still preferring baby boys over baby girls…

every opportunity to speak up against these gender-based injustices must be taken.

Of course, if all we do is pay homage to the importance of equality once a year, then we are doing nothing. I would even suggest that this does harm: because the appearance of taking action, while really taking none, gives an impression that things are getting better when in reality nothing is changing.

So International Women’s Day on its own is not enough – not by a million miles. The principles we espouse today must be put into practice every day.

Blue Dragon tries to live up to this ideal in everything we do. More than 60% of our staff and managers are women. Almost 70% of the tertiary students we sponsor are young women. Well over half of all the children across all our programs who we help day by day are girls. We know that girls need more opportunities to bridge the gap that inequality has created, so we push ourselves constantly to ensure girls and women have the opportunities they rightfully deserve, but otherwise would miss.

Writing as a man, I have to say: this is not about “giving” women a say, or “giving” them a chance. When we think of it this way, it’s an act of condescension and power. Women don’t need to be “given” equality. They need for men to stop taking it from them.

And this change begins with dropping our assumptions, and listening.

It can’t end there, though. Real change must begin with our personal interactions and continue right through to structural reform.

Every day in my work, I witness the extraordinary violence that women and girls suffer. The forced impregnations; forced marriages; forced surrogacies. None of this should exist in our world.

Laws must protect the rights of women. Schools must ensure that girl students have the support they need to complete their education. All of society must work together to find the causes of injustice, and address them. This is not “somebody else’s problem.” It’s yours and mine. And you and I can be part of the solution.

Blue Dragon has many amazing women and girls who are pioneers and leaders. In the lead-up to International Women’s Day 2021, we asked them to share a word that sums up what they want for their future. You can visit our Facebook page to hear what they had to say in response.

Our families, societies, workplaces – our very world – will be stronger and safer when women and men have an equal place and an equal voice. Nothing we can do has a greater impact than reducing the gap between girls and boys, women and men.

Today, and every day, let’s work to end inequality.

To mark International Women’s Day 2021, you are invited to become a sponsor of Girls’ Empowerment.

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