I was in standard five and I was rather excited by the buzz being made around women, and how we were as good as men. Partly I felt it was a good rebel cause to prove to my brothers that girls were as good as boys.
I specifically remember our class doing a short presentation during assembly in front of the whole school a girls’ school for that matter; showing how women are capable of holding the same professions as men. What I do remember most was our headmistress telling us that the role of a mother was a very important job.
Fast forward 20 years later, no longer a school girl, having joined working class; the name Beijing was the catch word for anything considered feminist. If a wife stood up for her rights, the disgruntled husband would blame it on ‘Beijing’. So what was this Beijing?
In short the Beijing Conference on Women in 1995 was a highly publicised women’s conference whereby a global commitment was made to achieve equality, development and peace for women worldwide in all spheres of public and private life through a full and equal share in economic, social cultural and political decision-making…at home, in the workplace and in wider national and international communities.
The Beijing conference focused on 12 critical areas of concern that must be addressed to achieve gender quality and women's empowerment. These included, women and poverty, education and training of women, violence against women and human rights of women and more. The girl child was a major concern of the Beijing Conference.
And talking about the girl child, the international theme this year for Women’s Day is ‘Connecting girls, inspiring futures.’ Personally it is a timely theme for me as I have a young daughter and it has got me thinking if I have ever done anything consciously to inspire her, talk less of her future? At eight years old she has changed her mind half a dozen times on what she would like to be in future.
I sincerely doubt if I have provided any guidance and at the same time it would be sad for her to lose her current enthusiasm for school. But sincerely speaking how does one inspire their own daughter and other girls as well?
Although the theme is short and simple it does not suggest how to go about it and our daughters and sisters rightfully need the inspiration so as to stay in school that is if they already are in school. We need to help them achieve their dreams, let them gain enough knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and give them the confidence to say no to sexual advances so that they do not end up with unplanned for pregnancies while in school.
Dreaming is one thing but living the dream is another. Let us not dash their hopes. Let us at least tell them they are as good as the boys they study with and they will succeed in life through determination and hard work.
Let us find time to talk to our daughters and resist the temptation to lecture them. We need to listen to what they have to say even though we might not like what they are trying to tell us. Should we be concerned if other girls are not in school or have dropped out of school? Yes I think we should. The more girls we have educated the better the wellbeing of our communities.
I guess I have a whole year ahead of me to work on this theme. So I had better start off the process by asking her yet again; what she wants to be when she grows up.