I am a feminist, because I want little girls around the world to feel empowered and dream outside their assigned gender role. I want females to feel equal to men across the world, no matter where they live. I want little girls to grow into women who see their value.
Traveling to India last winter really opened my eyes to gender inequality problems. I was aware of sexism issues in America, but around the globe it seems to be even more extreme. Duringmy time in India, I visited two schools that opened my eyes to global gender inequality.
The first school was a rural school for young girls of all ages in a village that practiced the Islamic faith. This school was created by a nonprofit called IIMPACT, which “provides educational opportunity to girls from socially and economically disadvantaged communities of India, who traditionally have no access to schooling.” IIMPACT had a difficult time convincing this community of the value in educating their young girls. The things they learned were very basic, but necessary knowledge. About 20-30 girls sat in a room no bigger than a Walmart restroom with little desks that reminded me of stepping stools. It was nice to see the girls so excited to learn, but come noon, they were sent back to complete gender identified tasks.
Most of the girls knew how to cook a variety of dishes, and the girls ranged in age from only 5 to 16. When we took the girls outside to teach them the game of Duck, Duck, Goose, we were informed the games would have to stop. Why? Because the village would frown upon the girls playing games and being so rowdy.
Hearing that crushed my heart.
The girls were only children, and they couldn’t run or play. They were expected to conform to their gender roles at such an early age. I understand that is an important aspect of many cultures… but it is wrong to me, and I hope for change. Having the opportunity to be educated is a step in the right direction for these little girls at least.
The other school we visited was a more modern and urban school. This school provided education for girls and boys who lived in a nearby slum. I was fortunate enough to spend time talking with a few young girls. The difference here is these girls had dreams and goals. The girls had visions of their futures where they could continue learning in college. This made me so happy to hear, I could have cried. It was a sigh of relief, when it felt like everything was revolving around a patriarchal society.
Previously we had seen a lot of male leadership and dominance, while the women were often quiet or completely out of sight. In the city of Mumbai, one of my peers questioned why we saw few women out and about during the days. This was an interesting observation that led me to recognize just how patriarchal India is. On a village tour, the little girls were in school or doing chores, while the boys skipped school to follow us around. The women worked, while the men gave us the tour. I recognize that I may have just noticed more gender inequality ever since my peer pointed it out in Mumbai, but this is how it truly seemed to be in most places.
I saw hope though. At the international hostel we stayed at in Delhi, there was a feminist poster that brightened my day. In the rural village, I met an elderly woman who was a part of the village government. This was very surprising, as she stood among a sea of men. It was inspirational, courageous, and just what we need to see happening all around the world. It is these rays of light, like that poster or the female government member or the girls at the urban school with dreams of college that give me mad hope.
I understand gender roles are a major aspect of many cultures, and sexism is tied up with many other issues. Nonetheless, we still must try to make a change. We need more courageous people, more dreamers, education, awareness, and action to end sexism and gender inequality.
I am a feminist because I want to see equality for all people, no matter their gender. I want to see women stand strong and feel empowered not only in India or my home country of the USA, but all over the world.