Vama Dave

Cannon Writer

From as early as 900 BC, there was the establishment of a strong, patriarchal society in most of the ancient civilizations that existed during that era. The gender roles were rigid and for the most part, irreversible. High regard was bestowed upon men who assumed roles of authority including those of fathers, kings, rulers, warriors, farmers and political rule-makers, whereas women were considered as second-class citizens whose ultimate goal in life was set to be the birther and caregiver of children, and whose work included nothing more than household chores.

The 19th century was when women were finally allowed the basic right to vote. In 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country to allow women to vote in parliamentary elections. On the other hand, there are countries like Kuwait and Iran that did not achieve voting rights for women till the year 2005.  The journey to achieving voting rights for the women of Canada itself encompassed more than 20 years for complete achievement. On the provincial level, some women could vote beginning in 1916. It took a few years for the suffrage of women to expand to the federal level. Asian- Canadian women and First Nation women did not win the right to vote until the 1940s and 1960, respectively.

The 21st century has given women a privilege far greater than any of the women in the past have ever received. This is the fruit of the labour of multitudes of rebellious women over the course of the past few decades who managed to create a space for themselves and for other women in a diversity of male-dominated professions. Any profession you talk about, there will be women who have contributed massively and set an example for the generations that follow.

For instance, while having a conversation about powerful and path-breaking attorneys you will not fail to think about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Hillary Clinton. The field of science would be incomplete without the contributions of great female scientists like Cynthia Kenyon and Nina Tandon. Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Maya Angelou have with their writing added richness to the world of literature. Women like Angela Merkel, Theresa May and Jacinda Ardern have changed the face of politics with their remarkable leadership skills. 

Talented actresses like Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey and Sandra Bullock helped shape cinema into what it is today. The world of business has been conquered by several women, some of the biggest names being Susan Wojcicki, Gina Rinehart and Whitney Wolfe Herd. The world of music wouldn’t be the same without the artistic excellence inculcated into it by women like Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Mariah Carey. The generous philanthropy of women like  Mother Teresa, Noella Coursaris and Lauren Bush has changed the world only for the better. The social activism of Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai shattered stigma and brought about several necessary radical changes. 

Even as these women are being named, we realize that there are myriads of other women just like these, who have made their mark and made massive contributions to a variety of professions for the past multiple years across the globe. To make it concise, in the very inspiring words of Sheryl Sandberg, “we need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.” As long as we follow this path of giving women equal opportunities in all professional fields, we will continue to make the world a better place for all humans worldwide.

While discussing the status of women in society, it would be careless not to mention the heinous crimes committed against them owing solely to the fact that they belong to the female gender. It is common knowledge that Canada is considered one of the safest countries in the world for women to live in. Yet, if we were to put down some statistics with respect to gender-based violence, you would be shocked to learn that crimes against women are still extremely prevalent. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. On any given night in Canada, 3,491 women and their 2,724 children sleep in shelters because it isn’t safe at home and about 300 women and children are turned away because shelters are already full. 

This doesn’t even begin to cover the violence inflicted on women in other parts of the world. 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives and this does not even begin to include sexual harassment, which is another huge issue for women worldwide. 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day. Women and girls account for 72% of all human trafficking victims globally, mainly for the purpose of sexual exploitation. At least 200 million women and girls aged 15-49 have undergone female genital mutilation in the 30 countries with representative data on prevalence. Approximately 15 million adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) worldwide have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their life. 

If we start considering in particular the conditions of women in the countries of Afghanistan, DR Congo, Pakistan, Somalia and India, you would deem it as nothing short of a disgrace to humanity. The statistics presented should be enough to raise your hair and make you question the safety of women in today’s world. If you shift your focus from the math and open your eyes to the atrocities against women, you will realize that every single number in the presented statistics equals one more girl who has lost the opportunity of a bright future, one more woman whose life has been disfigured, or one more family that has been crushed at the hands of patriarchy.

“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.”

In the year 2020, with everything the world has been through, these wise words of Kofi Annan serve to be extremely truthful. Those countries where women are given greater rights and equality, are by far some of the most developed nations on the face of the globe. Reaching the current position that women hold in today’s global society was nothing short of a tedious and a rough journey. The fight to uphold equality for women has taken centuries of toil. In the 21st Century women finally have a voice that they are allowed to use, and opinions that they are allowed to share. They certainly still have a long way to go. 

There is a fight against sexism and discriminatory practices that needs to be fought,  a demand for equal pay for people of all genders doing the same amount of work that needs to be granted, and the abolishment of the evils that exist in the mindsets of people that are shackled by the ghosts of patriarchy that needs to be fulfilled. If people of all genders fight for a society free from bias based on the mere grounds of gender, consciously make an effort to provide opportunities based on merit, with an understanding that every human being has equal psychological capabilities and deserves equal respect, the world will automatically become a better place to live in. 

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