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Today’s personal account of trying to engender equality comes from Sahar S.

Anyone who has either spent enough time with or read my blog knows: I am a firm believer that changing the world for the better lies in the hands of those at the grassroots. As we each strive to apply basic spiritual principles such as respect and equality and, most importantly, set ourselves on a path of constant study, action, consultation and reflection, we will inevitably advance human civilization towards its noble destiny.

As a woman, and especially as a female who works with junior youth, the principle of the equality of women and men is incredibly important to me. It always shocked me that, as a girl, I wasn’t allowed to be a certain way, and that there were certain things about me that made me, by society’s definition, a lesser female.

It was all the more confusing as the different cultures I was exposed to as a child, a junior youth, and as a youth, were completely different in their definition of what a woman was. Actually, no, not completely different, as all of them agreed that a woman married was inherently better than a woman unmarried. Can you blame me for considering No Doubt’s song “Just a Girl” as my anthem during my tween and teen years?

Working with 11 to 15 year-old has made me appreciate that the landscape before them in this day and age is all the more bewildering. If you spend enough time listening to all the voices that define what being a woman is, you realize that there is no way to really be a woman ; whatever you do, someone will not be happy.

This isn’t to say that things are not already changing, and for the better. One example is that there are more and more females are doing what they want and how they want it; societal definitions and impositions firmly chucked out of the window. Granted, I don’t agree with what they are doing, but the message of empowerment in itself is quite inspiring. One such woman is Lady Gaga. I don’t agree with the way she sexualises herself, but her attitude of being who she is and the way she is channeling it (i.e. to become the voice of the marginalized) is quite inspiring to anyone who feels “different” and disempowered.

Of course we are not all global superstars, and even if we were, it is a good question worth discussing to see how many people would actually get up and make a change. There is also the fact that being a noble human being calls for a certain dignity that most people in the world of the music industry don’t strive to apply. And everyone knows that sustainable, long-term change must come from the grassroots.

So what can each of us do to promote gender equality?

I started by examining my thought processes with regards to gender identity. After all, man’s thought is his reality. I also examined quite thoroughly my speech with regards to the same topic, since our thought is shaped by our words.

I was shocked to realise that what I thought was my thought pattern and speech, which I thought were promoting the equality of men and women, were actually not doing much in that regard. I had become so defensive about being a woman that I would use humour to put down men, cracking jokes such as the oft mentioned “God created man first as a rough draft for his perfect creation, woman”.

Putting others down to bring oneself up doesn’t contribute to solving the problem; consultation with my male friends about gender equality ground to a halt as my defensiveness about my imposed inferiority grew. But striving to change my mindset as well as my speech helped at first to defuse my defensiveness and eventually, created spaces for reflection on how to interact in a way that promotes equality between men and women.

Interested in sharing your experience promoting the equality of women and men? write a post and send it to engenderingequality@gmail.com

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