BY SHAMIKA STARKE
As a woman, I understand the importance of gender equality as it relates to a woman’s individual wellbeing, and to the sustainable development of our world as a whole. Societal norms and skewed gender-based expectations continue to place limits on the potential inherent in the worlds’ population of women, stagnating social progress.
Yes, women are nurturers, but women are also strong, smart and resilient. As half of the world’s population, women also make up half of its potential, which should not be overlooked.
I am a first born United States citizen. My family is from Belize – a country on the eastern coast of Central America. My mother has told me stories of her youth when, as a girl, she was given the task to grate whole coconuts for hours on end. The shavings would be used to make coconut oil, which she would then sell at the local market to bring home money for our family.
In the face of small beginnings, my mother allowed her life experiences to empower her to create a life of opportunity for herself and for her children. She moved to the United States, attending school during the day and working late nights until she became a registered nurse. My mother taught me to see my potential as an individual. She showed me that with hard work and dedication, I am capable of achieving my heart’s desires – even while standing as a woman, and a person of color. In spite of this truth, society has yet to fully embrace the reality of my rights as a human being.
So, why is gender equality important? So that women and young girls are empowered and able to fulfill their potential, without being subject to unfortunate gender biases that still remain today. We should live in a society where all men and women have access to equal rights and opportunities, in all aspects of life. It is unfortunate that, on average, women in the workforce still earn 24 percent less than men globally. All over the world, women and girls remain subjected to various forms of discrimination, violence and even harmful practices which show complete disregard for their human rights.
This is why I joined The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem – to be a part of an organization that seeks to address the root causes of problems affecting women, by supporting projects that bring about social change.
At The Women’s Fund, we have made a commitment to support Equal by 2030. In 2015, the United Nations committed to reaching 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The goals are purposed to end poverty, contest inequalities and tackle climate change, all while ensuring that no one is left behind. Goal 5 on the list of goals is to: achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
This may seem like a lofty task, however, it is attainable. Each of us, men and women, has the power and responsibility to take action, together, to achieve a better tomorrow. What can you do?
Well, it starts young. You can empower girls not to limit the possibilities they see for themselves, or their futures. Understand the importance of advocacy and advocate for girls’ health, education, protection and well-being. Mentor a young girl or woman at your organization or in your community.
Women, we must not allow unconscious biases or structural barriers to stand in the way of our rights. Be a voice, and work to address injustices that may form barriers to equal opportunity. Serve in public office. Join a board of directors and work to change the culture from within.
Men can show their support by working alongside women. They can encourage healthy and respectful relationships. They can host screenings of films, such as The Mask You Live In, that address important issues of gender for women and men in your community.
It is time for us to stand as one, rising together against injustices and inequality of all sorts. Together, we have the power to oppose gender inequality and empower women and girls everywhere. In the spirit of Rising Together, I would like to invite you to learn more about the Women’s Fund, and make the pledge to help us reach Equality by 2030. Join us at our 11th Annual Luncheon Celebration on November 15th at the Benton Convention Center from noon to 1:30 p.m.