The holiday season is upon us, and that therefore means that the winds of change for the new year blow ever stronger as we draw ever closer to year end. In reflection of 2016, I cannot help but celebrate it as the year that truly was for the Woman. Yes! The Year of the Woman. I celebrate the efforts of women (and some men) across the globe to advance us towards gender equality and squashing gender roles bit by bit.
Ladies, do not get me wrong, I know we have not yet reached our final destination. We have not yet achieved all of our goals, and the road is ever-covered with blind spots. For a moment, let us simply celebrate the successes – and indeed the failures – that have shaped the plight of gender equality for 2016. So yes, let us celebrate YOU, for changing the world by loving your family and raising your kids right. It truly is the first step towards the world becoming a better place.
So, for 2017, I pledge to affirm my stance on gender equality right at home. I’ll do this by not waking up early every day all on my own, but rather letting my partner pull those early morning shifts, drive for carpool and make goodies for bake sales, in equal measure. Did you ever wonder why bake sales are primarily a mom thing? Well not anymore! At least not around here. Oh yes, ladies! I mean progressive! Equal shares of making dinner, juggling kids, and all that jazz!
This radical change goes against the traditions of my mother’s generation. A man’s position in the family is very established where I come from. But for my family, this is a new world order! I am grateful, because my husband agrees with my radical changes.
And so, committed to our resolve and in the spirit of setting an example to our brood, here is to wishing you a gender equal Christmas, and a prosperous and progressive 2017!
Wish us luck!
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Nancy Sumari in Tanzania.
If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety.
She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother.
You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.
Today is my birthday.
It also marks the day that I’ll start to remain vague about my age.
A few years ago I turned 40,(No, I won’t give you specifics.)
And I remember a slight panicky feeling in my chest the night before.
I thought I was officially old.
But there was a life after 40 and it was a good one.
Some of my friends are approaching 50,
and they are making me feel pretty darn good about my age.
I have come to terms with myself and who I am.
The 40 something version of me is more outspoken and less anxious.
I feel older, wiser, and more at peace with myself.
Life has shown me that it is ever changing.
When I become too comfortable everything shifts and a new process begins.
The perfectionist in me has learned that there is no endgame, no specific goal to achieve.
I am an ever continuing work in progress.
But I do have the urge to be hopeful, helpful.
To spread kindness and positivity.
I want to fulfill my hopes and dreams.
I want to love and to be loved back.
Never stop learning and continue to grow.
My birthday is always at the same time of the year,
that I start to reflect and set my goals for the next year.
Oh, and what a crazy year it was.
This year I will just take a moment to count my blessings.
I have no specific birthday wishes or wishes for 2017,
only to be extended the grace to enjoy a fulfilling life.
I want to live my live to the fullest,
and not being held back by fear at trying to fulfill my hopes and dreams.
And I want to dance be silly and artistic.
Now excuse me while I go and eat some cake!
What are your birthday wishes?
Have you set your goals for 2017?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Mirjam in the Netherlands.
Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands.
She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life.
Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home.
She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera.
Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it.
She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways.
But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself.
You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.
Gender inequality is a sensitive, yet significant issue. Gender inequality (i.e. discrimination) against women and girls affects their education opportunities, choice of career and even their economic advancement.
Gender discrimination is so embedded in many cultures that it has become normalized, people perceive it as being acceptable. Hence, trying to discuss gender inequality can result in extreme responses such as anger, or maybe denial. It is also common to receive responses of pure surprise from both genders, as if it is an issue that does not exist.
I will try here to my observations of gender discrimination that can be encountered in Oman, keeping in mind that this is not a study. Omani culture is diverse, and is not homogenous.
In my experience, gender discrimination usually starts from day one of a child’s life. Many Omanis still celebrate the birth of a boy more than they celebrate the birth of a girl. You see, a boy carries the tribe’s family name, and thus keeps it going while the girl will be married one day, and her children will take their father’s name.
Until recently (and still today, with many families) an educated woman was considered a person who deserves less respect than an educated man. I believe this was the case worldwide at some point and time, which is why many female intellectuals throughout history used male pen names to publish their work. This is exactly why we did not have many female contributors in science, politics, etc, as this was totally unacceptable in many cultures. Historically, girls were given fewer opportunities to advance in their studies, resulting in much higher illiteracy amongst girls and women. I still hear many men (and women alike) insisting that a woman’s place is the home and that this should be her only choice.
Many universities in this part of the world have colleges that accept men only. I personally graduated from school during a time when the college of engineering in one of Oman’s universities accepted only men. Luckily, this has since changed, and both men and women are accepted.
Moreover, there is obvious discrimination in salaries, allowances, and career development opportunities in many countries in my region. Luckily, this is not true in Oman now. Although, at the time I graduated from university, I had to attain higher grades for my scholarship, compared to the boys who applied at the time. Fortunately this has also changed now, and discrimination in the opportunities given to men and women is much less obvious. However, some discrimination is still institutionalized. For example, if an Omani woman marries a non-Omani man, then she cannot pass her Omani citizenship to her children. At the same time, an Omani man can pass his Omani citizenship to his kids, regardless of his wife’s nationality.
Career choices are also subject to gender discrimination, and men can also suffer from that. I can still remember the comments I heard about men who opted to study nursing. Nursing was seen as a career for women, and men working as nurses received continuous sarcasm.
Women were once only allowed to study education, as a teaching job effectively kept women segregated from men. Studying medicine, for example, was once frowned upon for women. This has changed dramatically, but female doctors are still not widely accepted. Discrimination is obvious even in recreation, as some hobbies are still only acceptable for men.
Discrimination is also common in our daily language. Until recently (and even today, with many families), a man saying the name of one of his female family members in front of other men is considered shameful. Moreover, disrespectful phrases like “don’t be such a woman” are still commonly heard. Furthermore, there are many societal codes forcing specific looks, hairstyles and clothing on women. Any woman refusing to comply with these societal expectations is usually seen as disrespectful. Meanwhile, men are allowed to dress as they please.
In Oman, the tribal system is highly regarded, which means you belong to a huge family and carry their name. If a girl does something unacceptable (say she married without her family’s consent or did something unacceptable in the society), then she brings disgrace the entire tribe. However, if a boy does the same, then he carries his “shame” alone. In other words, women carry the dignity of the whole tribe on their backs. This is more common in rural areas, and less in big cities.
In Oman, women are commonly held responsible for the misbehaviour of men. For example, if a man harasses a woman, the woman will likely be blamed for it. She will be accused of provoking the harassment by wearing something indecent, for instance. Else, she will be blamed for being attractive, walking in the wrong place, talking in the wrong way, etcetera. Of course, the man is excused for whatever he does and is never held responsible. Fortunately, Oman has a strong law now against such behaviour, therefore, this is no longer a common issue here. However, it is unfortunately a critical issue in many countries.
The pressure women suffer to appear, behave, talk, and act in a certain way is huge. As such, the cosmetic surgery businesses are profiting with the active programming of girls to believe that the way you look is more important than anything else. Moreover, marriage is an integral part of our culture, and a lot of men look for beauty above all else, thus putting extra pressure on women. Of course, household chores and raising children are considered a woman’s job only in most houses.
One of the most common ways of discriminating against women is treating them as objects. Many people in this part of the world are aware of the different literature that describes women as jewels, diamonds, or pearls in a shell. This may sound poetic and beautiful, but to many, it is just a way to describe women as fragile, delicate, objects to be owned.
Due to their reduced autonomy, women in Oman are less able to manage daily activities that many women in other countries take for granted. For example, I know many women cannot even go shopping by themselves, nor are they allowed to conduct simple bank transactions. This makes them more vulnerable, and prone to exploitation.
While gender inequality is officially reduced at organizational and political levels, it still continues within the society. It is more difficult to eliminate the discrimination in areas where the law cannot interfere that much. At this point, only raising awareness can help.
These are just few of the points about this critical issue. My aim is not to degrade one part for the sake of the other, because I believe each human being deserves equal opportunity. Moreover, gender discrimination has caused more than enough damage. These days, many households are being run by women. In many cases, women are the sole breadwinners for their families. Women are the ones who raise the kids, help them with their homework, and put food on the table. Reducing women’s opportunities to proper education, careers and treatment affects the whole society. Empowering women in every way possible brings positive change in the economic situation of any country. Many women are not even aware of their rights. They have been raised to believe that they are less than men, and thus deserve less. The vicious cycle continuous and we need to break it. Awareness is one way. I was luckier than my mother and I want my daughters to be happier than me. The fight continues!
Are you aware of any gender inequality where you live right now? What can be done to change it?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Ibtisam Alwardi of Oman. Photo courtesy of the author.
Ibtisam (at Ibtisam's musings) is an Omani Mom of three, living in the capital city of Oman ,Muscat.
After working for ten years as a speech and language therapist in a public hospital, she finally had the courage to resign and start her own business. She had a dream of owning a place where she can integrate fun, play and 'books', thus the iPlay Smart centre (@iplaysmart) was born.
Currently she is focusing on raising awareness through social media about parenting, childhood, language acquisition. She started raising awareness on (the importance of reading) and (sexual harassment) targeting school-aged children.
Ibtisam enjoys writing, both in Arabic and English, reading and working closely with children.
She plans to write children books (in Arabic) one day.
Contact Ibtisam at ibtisamblogging(at)gmail.com.
World Moms Network and the Heartfulness Institute have partnered to bring forth a series of online monthly webinar workshops for women called GLOW which stands for ‘Genuine Loving Outstanding Women’. This helps women everywhere to learn and practice Heartfulness meditation from the comfort of their homes or workplace. The aim is to help women integrate meditation into their daily lives to achieve a more peaceful and balanced life, and a better environment. Each webinar will also feature an expert speaker, chosen from women who are outstanding in their fields, and are influencers and change makers.
Inspiration through Travels:
GLOW: #Heartfulness Webinar: Inspiration through Travels
A wanderlust heart is an indication of the soul’s urge to embark on an inner revelatory spiritual journey. Ms. Naiana Maximo is going to speak about her inspiration to travel and to jump into the unknown with a lot of faith; to experience the goodness of people; to face situations and challenges, to navigate them and perceive the beauty of a destination. Her travels, even though fleeting moments in time, have led her inwards in an adventure, into her heart.
Keynote Speaker – Ms. Naiana Maximo:
Ms. Naiana Maximo
Ms. Naiana Maximo is a trained Naturotherapist who works in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She is also a certified Heartfulness trainer and a keen traveler. Her love of travel and her aspiration to find meaning to her life, led her to the gates of the Heartfulness Center in the little town of Satkhol, high up in the Himalayas, where she knocked on the door and asked the manager to teach her how to meditate. And the rest, as they say, is history…!
In her spare time she plays the flute, writes poetry, sings Portuguese songs and also conducts concerts across Sao Paulo. She is a talented, versatile, inspirational and multi-faceted woman!
An experience of Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation
Inspiration for participants to be ‘women of purpose and intent’, and to believe in the ‘goodness of the heart’.
Learning how to follow one’s intuition, and to follow it, without giving up.
All women across the globe who would love a hot cup of inspiration and who seek guidance to listen to the true calling of their heart! Please share the attached Social Media Promotional images in your circles, encouraging women to join.
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