Someone recently said “you have to look very hard to find good news stories about women”.
Well that’s true. But some good news stories do exist. You are one of those stories. You represent hope. In your youth and your innocence you are a new beginning, and an end to the unfairness that exists against women and girls today.
You don’t yet understand the world that you are growing up in. There are so many things about the world that I want to shelter you from.
Today, on International Women’s Day, people everywhere are campaigning to make the world a better place for you to live: a fairer and more equal society for you to grow up in.
Closing the gender pay gap
At the moment you read and write better than most of the boys in your class. But at some point, those same boys who right now can barely dress themselves, will overtake you and have a better job that pays more money than yours does. But you my darling are as smart as any boy- don’t let anyone tell you differently. You can work just as hard. We are working to close that gap for you. So that when you grow up, you can go for the senior jobs that weren’t available to me- that someone behind closed doors decided I shouldn’t have because I’m a woman.
An end to racial inequality
You have beautiful brown skin. Don’t let ANYONE tell you that you are not beautiful because of the colour of your skin or the sound of your name. People have been telling me that all my life. They treat me differently. There are fewer opportunities available to me just because of my skin colour- I know that seems strange right? But I have to work harder just to prove I’m the same as they are. We ARE all equal in society and we are fighting to make our voices heard.
That’s why we celebrate International’s Women’s Day. It’s not just a PR exercise as one cynical commentator said. It is a day to shed light on what women can be- and we must carry that forward for the other 364 days of the year. You must carry that forward, and one day you can be an agent of change too. You know why? Because not everyone is as lucky as we are.
Women are not safe
Do you know, there are some women who have to go outside to use the toilet– and in doing so face danger from bad people? Those same women cannot go out at night– like mummy sometimes does when you’re asleep- because those bad people tell them they’re not allowed. We have to tell the bad people that it’s NOT ok to make women and girls feel unsafe. We all have the right to feel safe!
Do you know there are women who are forced to marry someone they don’t want to? I know that sounds really scary. And after they’re married, sometimes that person treats them really badly– they’re not kind like your daddy. I know- we need to do something to help those women. Trust me, I know.
We are activists
So let’s you and I be brave. I often tell you to stand up for yourself- I hope I give you the courage to do that. It’s NOT being unkind! It’s ok to say “no, that’s not right for me.” I’ve been doing it through gritted teeth all my life because I’ve been too afraid. Until a friend of mine pointed out to me that being brave and speaking up is the example I set FOR YOU.
That you will see a mummy that is trying to make things better- for herself, for you.
And hopefully a few others who will join us along the way.
1 in 3 women across the world experience violence. (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine 2013)
The abuser is usually someone the woman knows: 38% of all murdered women are killed by their intimate partners. (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine 2013)
In the developing world, 1 in 9 girls will be forced into a marriage before the age of 15 (www.plan-uk.org)
More than 130 million girls and women today have had female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa and the Middle East where FGM is concentrated (UNICEF)
It is estimated that for each year a mother is absent from the workplace her future wages will reduce by 5%. (‘Motherhood ‘devastates’ women’s pay, research finds’, The Guardian)
Approximately 70% of people in national minimum wage jobs are women. (Low Pay Commission (2007) National Minimum Wage Low Pay Commission Report 2007, Figure 2.8, p32.)
Women make up only 17% board directors of FTSE 100 companies. (Women on boards, p3, 2011)