I felt guilty reading this book, I’m not going to lie. Hearing stories about women who are forced into marriage or trapped in brothels and raped multiple times a day makes my problems feel smaller. As women, I’m calling all of you to fight for the rights of women in other countries as well. At the V-Day celebration last night (such an incredible and empowering event!), the quote by Audre Lorde, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own” circled around the room often and inspired this post. It made me feel grateful that I am able to get an education and pursue the career of my dreams. While each woman is fighting for her own struggles, we must also fight for the struggles of others, even those we don’t know and those from other countries that we will likely never meet. Humans as a whole will not be free until every last one of us are free. In a lot of other countries, women are not even allowed to protest in the ways we can. They are not allowed to speak out and must obey everything men tell them to do. That makes me feel a little sick to my stomach.
But, there are some countries who have made amazing progress towards equality. Iceland made the gender pay gap illegal in January of 2018. This country is also known for their laws that protect women in the corporate setting and their generous parental leave. Although some countries like Iceland, and recently Scotland (yay for free period products!) have made advancements towards equality for all, there are still countries fighting for their equal pay, equal opportunity and even their right to voice their concerns and may we never forget that none of us are truly free until all of us are free. At the rate we are moving right now, it is predicted to take 108 years to close gender gaps across politics, health and education. You can read more about feminism in the best and worst countries here: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/best-worst-countries-for-women-2018-list-ranking/
I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of different countries growing up and I’ve been inspired by the idea of advocating for equality for all women around the world. I want to talk about my personal experience with one country in particular.
This country is Laos. This is where I really became obsessed with women empowerment. I had the pleasure of spending my time in the village of Sop Chem working alongside the locals in various projects such as education and building a teacher’s dorm. In the evenings, we would offer something called “Women’s Night”. Women’s night was an opportunity for the women in the village to join us in learning some English phrases that will help them sell their textiles to tourists. The women spend their days hand-weaving scarves and blankets to sell to support their families. Learning English gives them a much better chance of being able to communicate with the tourists that pass through the village since many of the tourists don’t speak their local language. Women’s night was often times the first opportunity the women had to learn any sort of English. Seeing their faces light up when they learned a new phrase was incredible. These women work so hard for their families just to make a livable amount of money. There were so many strong women in this community who took on weaving, cooking and raising children. In my opinion, the women are the backbone of the family.
The book is called Half the Sky because that’s what women truly are … half the sky. Women are fierce, hardworking, and so damn deserving of every single opportunity that men have.