Have you ever met the pilot on the plane you are travelling on? Perhaps the next time you travel you can – for now, close your eyes and imagine what your pilot looks like. Is he or she tall? Wearing dark glasses? Is it a man? Or a woman? Don’t be surprised if the mental image of your pilot was a man. Let’s try again – what do you imagine when you hear the word “nurse”?
What’s all this about? This is the big discussion on “gender”, which is basically whether you are a man or a woman. For centuries we have been conditioned, or made to think of men and women in specific roles. Men, for example, have traditionally been thought of as the ‘earners’. They work hard to support their families. Women have been thought of as taking care of the home and of the children. But now, people want to re-think these roles and to give an equal opportunity to men and women for education, work, pay, families, and responsibility. They want there to be more equality between men and women.
But are we equal? Of course, men and women are physically different! But this is not about who can run faster or lift heavier weights. It’s about both girls and boys having an equal chance – where both read, love to dance, play football, save a life, invent the next generation computer, discover the cure to deadly diseases, and take care of their families.
Sounds like a huge and very important topic. So how do we make this happen? Up until 1918 in many parts of the world women were not allowed to vote for their leaders. Imagine not having a say in something so important. The right to vote now seems such an obvious one — but women had fought for nearly 100 years to get this right. Such big changes take place when people come together.
In the 1960s, women came together once again because often until then they were only accepted as teachers, nurses or secretaries. Quite limited, right?! And that can feel very unfair and frustrating. This gave rise to the Women’s Rights Movement, bringing a massive social change. It is why we now have many women doctors, fire fighters, scientist, astronauts, lawyers, captains of industry and even politicians.
That’s cool! So what’s the issue? Even though women are accepted in the workforce, they do not always enjoy the same freedoms. Sometimes they are paid less than men for the same job, or made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You may have heard of the #MeToo Campaign which took place on social media last year. This was the first time millions of women of all ages, cultures and many countries came together to express that they were wronged and that a change is needed.
Many are doing their bit to bring a change. Like during the 75th Golden Globe Awards, where trophies are given out to the best movies, media celebrity Oprah Winfrey acknowledged the courage it took for so many people to speak up. Actress Natalie Portman announced the nominees for Best Director who were all male. She wittily highlighted how in the past 75 years, women have been nominated as Best Director only seven times and only one woman, Barbra Streisand has ever won. Then last week, 600,000 women and men gathered in Los Angeles in solidarity for the Women’s March on the first anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau is another strong supporter of gender equality, and gave a big speech about this at the World Economic Forum meeting in Switzerland last week. As are the countries of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland. On January 1, 2018, Iceland passed a law that actually makes it illegal for men and women to be paid differently for doing the same job!
Whether it’s a letter, on social media or a demonstration on the street—small actions can make a big difference to all of us growing together fairly.
What do you think about this movement and how do you think children can make a difference? Type in a few lines in the “Comments” section and tell us what you’re thinking. We’d love to hear from you!
Contributed by Tanika Thacker and Purnima Thacker
Purnima Thacker is a keen art admirer, nature enthusiast, intellectual property lawyer and mum to a curious 8 year old.