Looking around us these days, one word finds itself on many people’s lips: change. The state of things, whether nationally or globally, simply cannot go on for the simple reason that so many people are unhappy, to varying degrees. There are still people who don’t have enough food, or a decent place to live, or can find dignified work at a living wage. There are several million people today who have been driven out of their homes by conflict, by lack of jobs and by climate change. And out of all these people, the ones who bear the heaviest burdens are women.
People may differ as to what change is needed and how to effect that change. But just about everyone agrees that change is needed. The only question is who should make the change?
Very often people talk about change but are unwilling to take the required action for that change to happen. Women in particular are guilty of this, accepting their lot in life for as long as they can stand it. Yet change very often has also come from women who understand that any positive change for women ultimately benefits all of society. And very often they need to be very bold to ask for that change.
None of us women today would have the voting rights we take for granted if it hadn’t been for women like Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United Kingdom. They were seen as crazy women at the time for stunts like chaining themselves to fences to gain attention for their cause. But it worked.
Similarly with the women who demanded the right to maternity leave, to equal pay for equal work and other issues that affect women. These are all rights which we now take for granted that we are entitled to but none of these would have been possible without bold women.
This is true not just in the West but also in many developing countries. Malaysian women fought for six years to get a Domestic Violence Act passed in the late 80s and early 90s but they eventually succeeded and Malaysia became the first Muslim country in the world to protect women from domestic abuse. Since then many other countries have followed suit.
Women in many other countries, in India, Africa and the Middle East, have stepped up to demand change in their countries to keep up with their new levels of education and empowerment. In Turkey, the Constitution has been amended to recognise men and women as equal partners in marriage. Even in Saudi Arabia, women have defied authorities by driving their cars to protest laws against it and are working to change the law that all women need a male guardian to approve everything they do, which is slowly bearing fruit.
The point is well made, that to bring about change, women must be bold, must be prepared to step up to the plate, even at personal cost to themselves.
But why is this year’s International Women’s Day theme so obvious? Perhaps it is because in many parts of the world, we are seeing a rollback in women’s rights. This is seen most starkly in the United States with the election of a president on the wave of very conservative votes. American women are now seeing threats to their right to abortion, to funding for organisations that support reproductive rights, to gender equality and diversity programmes and everything that women have fought long and hard for.
But time has moved on for so long that women are no longer willing to give up the rights they have long enjoyed.Thus the Women’s March on the day after the Presidential inauguration brought millions of women out, not just in the US but all over the world, to protest these attacks on their rights. What is even more remarkable is the fact that the Women’s March was organised by women who had never organised such a thing before, and they have proven inspirational to many women everywhere. Many women are now considering standing for electoral office because they feel that is the only way they can truly effect change.
Indeed entering politics is probably the boldest move any woman can make. In a country like Malaysia where only 10% of parliamentarians are women, women are hesitant to enter politics because it is seen as such hostile misogynistic territory and because of the general belief that women cannot carry on their wifely and motherly duties if they do. This despite the fact that women are the backbone of all election campaigns, ensuring that the party machinery works at the grassroot levels. Small wonder then that women’s issues are given short shrift at the national level to the detriment of all.
At heart is the need for women to be confident enough to take these bold steps for change. And confidence can come in many different ways. At Zafigo, we believe that a woman gains confidence from travelling on her own, making decisions for her travel experiences by herself and being safe and secure all the way. This we hope will also translate into confidence in all other areas in her life.
And also hopefully imbue her with the boldness she needs to make changes for herself, her family, her community, nation and even the world.
Happy International Women’s Day!
For International Women’s Day 2017, we’re asking you to #BeBoldForChange to help forge a better, gender equal and just world.
If you could #BeBoldForChange, what would you do? Tell us on our Wall of Change.