Women have been talking about gaining control of their lives, and making impactful decisions at home and in a community for a long time now. Today, while we celebrate the voices that are speaking up for women around the world, the fight still continues.
When I was in school, I would get asked about my ambitions - and as a little girl with big dreams - I would courageously reply “to be the first women prime minister in Malaysia”. Maybe the idea of having a women leader was so novel to so many, that responding to me with a laughter (instead of an encouragement) comforts them somehow. It was similar to if you were to hear an 8 year old saying she wants to live on Mars. You would probably laugh it off (and our future generations in Mars would see us as archaic) but it nevertheless made me doubt myself and my dreams. So my answer have since changed to “doctor”, or “lawyer” and I was immediately getting better responses.
Why are our goals and dreams limited to the status quo?
If I had a daughter who said that today, I would encourage her to fight for what she believes in and that nothing is impossible.
Even though we have come a long way and have seen a great change in the world today in terms of women empowerment, there is still a lot of work to do.
You can still see the difference in the way women are treated in almost every environment we put ourselves in. I myself have unfortunately been in a boardroom where I witnessed a statement made that went something like “women can’t be a partner in this company, they have the tendency to be emotional and make bad decisions”. That was something I will never forget.
Or another time where I was working on a project with a partner of mine, and have been working on it together for about half a year, the final official project didn’t have my name anywhere on it. It had my workmate’s name, and only his.
Or another time when I was on my way for an interview for the position of a legal executive, I met a client I was previously working with and had told him that I was heading for a job interview with a local airline. He immediately assumed it was for a position of an air stewardess. He continued with a little joke on how I would make a beautiful air stewardess in a uniform. While I have totally considered being one in the past, I hated that he didn’t think I was capable of achieving something more. If I was a man, there would probably be a follow up question as to what the position might be instead of assuming it be an air hostess. Maybe he would think the position would be a pilot, I don’t know. But he definitely would be more careful with his words.
I may not be on the track to be become the first women prime minister of Malaysia today, but with the little platform I have, and with the support of such a strong online community of women, I am acquiring a little more courage every day to fight for the cause in any way that I can, and support other women along the way.
It has been made so clear today that we need deeds, and not just words, and not just a social media repost. We need to keep looking for ways that can transform a women’s position in society in a way that the advancement can and will be sustained.
Women shouldn’t feel comfortable with being inferior, shouldn’t settle for less, and shouldn’t be OK with workplace discrimination. I urge all of you to speak up whenever you can.
When women and girls are placed into certain roles because of their gender, and worse - if they are OK with it, this often leads to men thinking that they have power over us. They will think that they have all the control and in the countless cases we have seen in the past, many of them have condoned violence towards women who try to stand up for themselves and seek independence.
We are in this together, and we must look out for each other.
If society continues to perceive men as the ones in charge, it will inevitably affect your relationship with everyone around you. Be it at home, at work, or any other environment you’re in. There shouldn’t be place for aggression and disrespect anywhere, in any relationship.
Support your female peers and fellow sisters, and be a voice for other women who are unable to use theirs. Change starts with you.