Tomorrow is the 101st International Women’s Day and around the world, many girls and women do not have their basic rights. However, even in the developed nations, we are still far from being fully equal – we are bombarded with messages about womanhood, femininity, sexuality, behaviour, and this has an impact on the way we see ourselves and our individual and collective self-esteem. Many girls live in poverty, but it is often hidden and ignored because poor bashing is easier than having meaningful solutions for social issues that impact not just individuals but families and communities. A lot of this is so common sense that will probably be redundant. But in a place where I grew up and in many parts around the world – a strong girl is a radical idea. So I invite you to challenge sexism and misogyny by empowering the girls in your life to be strong and resilient and here are some obvious ways to do it.
So today, here is my do and do not do list for girls’ empowerment that you can start doing right away.
- Teach her critical thinking skills.
- Teach her self-advocacy skills
- Teach her that her body is not shameful and dirty.
- Teach her that making mistakes is okay – constructive feedback should not be punitive criticism
- Show her what healthy relationships look like
- Encourage a love of learning and reading
- Spend time with her
- Listen to her dreams and goals and help her figure out her path in life
- Encourage her to be a leader
- Demonstrate and teach her empathy and compassion
- Encourage independence
- Listen to her feelings and validate them
- Encourage her to explore and use her talents
- Respect that her views as she gets older may differ from your own
- Teach her equality and demonstrate it
- Talk to her about what’s going on at school and in her life
- Get help from local women’s and youth centres if you don’t know where to start
- Talk to boys about respecting women
- Support organizations that empower girls globally (after of course, checking out their work and development model!)
- Call her names and diminish her
- Value boys and men over her
- Silence her if she tells you she has been abused (she may use different words for that)
- Tell her she will never be (insert career/profession/choice here) because she is a girl
- Teach her that all or most her energy must be spent on physical appearance and/or acquiring a mate
- Punish her if she prefers to play with Legos rather than dolls
- Ignore her when she needs your support
- Tell her that there is only one way to be a woman
- Abuse her if she has different goals from you
- Criticize her for not being perfect
- Ignore her questions about sexuality: being informed will go further than if she information from porn culture
- Think that she isn’t watching what you are doing: you are a role model and she does take hints
This is only a short list of things we can do right now. We can listen, we can nurture, we can offer love and support and help girls become strong women, leaders and decision-makers in their communities because without strong girls and women – the world suffers and alienates half of its most valuable resource.
Happy International Women’s Day!