I recently sat next to a fellow mother at the end-of-the-season basketball tournament for our middle school boys. It was standing room only in the bleachers. Across the gym, the student section was equally filled with chanting fans, many sporting painted faces and waving green and white pom poms. The mother lamented the spirited fans - less than a third of them had shown up for her daughter’s tournament.
Kids learn at an early age that gender parity doesn’t exist in all places. In 2019 women’s and girls’ sports are analogous to field hockey, a lower-profile sport that might get some attention, but only when it is off-season for football and basketball.
One group of women warriors is battling this inequity in a big way - the U.S. women’s soccer team. Today, on International Women’s Day, 28 members of the team stepped up their battle with U.S. Soccer when they filed a gender discrimination lawsuit. Though dominant internationally in their sport, the U.S. women have argued for years that their pay and working conditions pale in comparison to that of the men’s team. (1)
Photo Credit: Jeffry Lin/Unsplash
Sports is just one space in which women continue to pursue equity. On this International Women’s Day (IWD), we celebrate those who continue to seek balance - balance in sports as well as the boardroom, the government, media coverage, employment, and education. (#BalanceforBetter)
This is not just an American thing; it is a worldwide “call to action for accelerating gender parity,” according to IWD’s website. (6)
Here are just a few other recent actions:
On New Year’s Day, between 3.5 and 5 million women lined up side by side along western India’s National Highway 66. This human wall, which extended 385 miles, was intended to bring awareness of gender inequality, demonstrate solidarity, and protest a religious ban that prevented women of menstruating age from entering Hindu temples. (3)
When Nadia Murad, part of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, was captured by ISIS and forced into sexual slavery, she acted boldly. Not only did she escape, she went on to share her story with others, becoming a role model for other captive women and girls. In 2018, Murad was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. (4)
Back in the United States, women made history, too. In 2018 women achieved the highest percentage of Congressional representation in history. As the 116th Congress convened, 102 (23.4%) women in the House of Representatives and 25 women (25%) in the Senate took their seats. The trend continues: six women have already declared their candidacy in the Democratic Primary for U.S. president. (5)
Photo Credit: Tim Gouw/Unsplash
In Tanzania, gender parity has been achieved in primary schools. Now Tanzanians continue to work towards decreasing the gender gap in secondary schools. Currently, only 40% of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school. (Read more: https://brighter-tz-fund.org/Blog/6366602)
Students at Saving Grace School in Arusha, Tanzania
The path to gender equity is paved by a collection of actions, big and small. And it begins with children who internalize what they see and experience. A child in Tanzania will believe that girls have a rightful place in every classroom when he sees that 50% of the seats are filled with girls. A girl in the U.S. will believe that her spot on the basketball court is laudable when as many eyes are on her as on her male counterpart.
As for me, I intend to take a small action this weekend, too, when I take my son to watch the final game of the girls’ tournament.