It can be easy to get caught in a trap of prejudice for cultures where there is gender inequality. Easy to immediately try to distinguish the black and white of the situation; the men being the villains and the women being the victims. But life is very rarely that straightforward and if we want to try to stop gender discrimination, we need to know what we are stopping first.
Many of us have heard tales of women who’ve been sold into marriage from younger than ten; who’ve been beaten and abused on a daily basis; who’ve been victims at the hands of men all their lives. But look again and you notice that actually, the mothers encourage these marriages; that many a girl has felt the repeated sting of a mother-in-law’s slap; that many women believe that they are second to men, that they were only put on this Earth to serve men, that they are worthless? These stories we hear of women wanting change, knowing that they’re worth something - these stories of hope – these are only the stories of the people who have hope, who know that they deserve better. But what of those people who don’t feel that they’re being refused their right to be equal? How do you cure someone of a disease that they don’t even realize they have? Of a disease that has rooted itself so into their bones, their blood, their mind, that it’s become them. When they’ve learnt to live with it, adapt to it, accept it, who are we to come and tell them that they are diseased? What if they don’t believe it? Are we going to force our cures upon them?
We can blame men. We can blame culture, history, religion, society. We can blame any of these things and more for the awful discrimination that women are going through all over the world. But pointing fingers doesn’t solve problems. We cannot go in and demand that someone changes their culture nor tell anyone that their opinions are wrong, no matter how much we want to or feel that they are. However we can try to persuade and empower people. Empowering women is a key to gaining their equality because when you teach a girl that she is worth it, she’ll teach another who’ll teach another… and soon we have a generation of brave, proud women.
The real tragedy is that these women are made to feel like this; feel that they deserve this discrimination. And it is in this lack of self-worth that much of the inequality is born. Of course, men looking down upon women is still a big problem but women looking down upon themselves is a bigger one. Before there is any hope of freeing these women, they need to understand that they deserve to be free, that they are not worthless animals but amazing human beings. Amazing human beings with the potential to be just as incredible as any man.