We are only few days away from New Year’s eve, and the air is filled with the exciting promise of the endless possibilities of the new year. The chance to start over, clean the slate, make resolutions about being a better You – perhaps related to a healthier lifestyle, spending less money, being better at keeping in touch with family and relatives, exercising more, spending less time on the internet, learning a new skill. Resolutions often reflect the person we think we would like to be – an ideal version of Me.
This New Year’s, perhaps you can make a resolution to do one thing in 2016 to promote gender equality in your community. It doesn’t need to be anything big or grand, because even the smallest of things can make a huge difference in a person’s life – and, the smallest of actions are often the catalyst for a bigger wave of change and progress. Here are five suggestions on how You can step up for gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights in 2016. Make this a part of your list of promises for this New Year – and if we all manage to do even one of these things, we can all be a part of building a better world for women and girls.
1. See something? Say something.
It may be almost 2016, but sadly sexual violence and violence against women and girls is still commonplace and rampant almost everywhere in the world. Sometimes it can seem like a small thing – a man making a sexist comment when passing a woman on the street, a stranger making unwanted approaches to a woman on public transport, a friend of yours saying something misogynistic on social media. But these “small” things all promote a culture where women and girls are not valued. They send a message that it is okay to treat women and girls badly, that it is acceptable to devalue us, to dehumanize us – and that, in turn, paves the way for much more serious violations of women’s and girls’ rights, security and autonomy. So don’t stay silent – step up when you witness such behavior. Raise your voice against sexism, misogyny and patriarchy. Ask us for help, and we will support you – as will thousands and thousands of others who are tired of a world where sexism and violence are accepted and normalized. It is time to say “No more!”
2. Use your Vote
Voting is such an important way to influence the societies we live in. Remember that no election is too small to matter – starting from the smallest of local elections all the way to the Presidential ones, each election will determine the people in charge of creating policies, budgets, guidelines and laws that influence the world we live in. In 2016, find our where your candidates stand on women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality issues and make sure to use your vote in every election that is happening in your community and country. Vote for people who are not afraid to talk about the challenges women and girls continue to face, and who have a clear plan on how to improve the status of gender equality in your country.
3. Raise or donate money for a cause that promotes gender equality
Many women’s organizations struggle with limited resources. Find a cause near your heart, related to women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality, and donate money or raise funds to support that cause. Check out Catapult, a crowd-funding platform for gender equality – or find an organization like Global Fund for Women to donate to and support women and girls around the world. Do you like what we’re doing at Girls’ Globe? You can also donate to support our work.
4. Raise awareness about issues concerning women and girls in your community
First, educate yourself – and then educate others. Find out what are some of the biggest challenges for women and girls in your society: is it violence against women, lack of educational opportunities, gender pay gap, lack of sufficient sexual and reproductive health services? Learn about the gaps that exist and hinder women’s and girls’ empowerment and ability to live to their full potential – and then make some noise! Talk to other people about what you have learned, advocate via social media, write an Op-Ed for the local newspaper, contact the local radio station. Find organizations that work on these issues and get involved. Organize a town hall meeting to talk about what can be done to fix the problems – and encourage others to join you Change starts from awareness – and we can all play a part in spreading that awareness around!
5. Believe that a Gender Equal world is possible – and settle for nothing less.
The road may seem long – but don’t lose faith. I believe that we can reach a gender equal world, hopefully within my own lifetime – and I want to be a part of making that world a reality. I believe it will not only be beneficial for women and girls, but for men and boys too, like my son – and I want to see him grow up in a world where all people, regardless of their gender (and there are more than two!) or any other trait, are treated equally and fairly. Keep believing that this is a realistic goal, a reachable goal – and don’t settle for anything less than full equality. Some may claim it’s utopia or unrealistic, but I beg to differ. What I think is unrealistic is to expect that we, as a global community, can have any sort of sustainable development or progress when half of our population continue to be discriminated against because of their gender. It’s time to put a stop to that. I believe we can do that, and I’m up for the task! It’s almost 2016 – will you join me?
Featured image courtesy of UNICEF Ethiopia.