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I usually let my daughter do her own homework and project work. One, I believe it will make her self-reliant, independent, responsible and so on. Two, I have my own to-do list to wade through. Three, revisiting textbooks? Thanks, but no thanks.
But since this one was for a school exhibition, I relented. It was a simple project – make a chart on common and proper nouns, with pictures. We chose words such as bridge, city, sea, river, man, girl, woman, mountain, and so on. Then we sat down looking for proper nouns for these words. “But amma, why do you want a picture of a woman as common noun for the proper noun, ‘Kalpana Chawla’?” she asked, when I suggested she surf for the relevant images on a search engine for children. Wondering if she had, indeed, got her noun concept right, I answered with another question, “So what’s the common noun for Kalpana Chawla?”
“Astronaut, of course!” she said, shaking her head like her mother knew nothing.
That was my lesson in gender parity from an eight-year-old, last week. My daughter was right. Why do we need to box the Indian-American’s achievements with her sex? She was known as an astronaut, after all. And here I was, making her gender the biggest discriminator.
Thankfully, my daughter knows better.
I’m not the only guilty party here. For centuries, women have been discriminated against because of their gender, and have not been recognized for their role in social, economic, cultural, and political achievement.
The result? A large, yawning gap in gender parity. The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 (!) to achieve global gender parity. In 2015, WEF estimated it had been optimistic in its prediction – that there was a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress, which meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133. Yes, that’s right, 117 years more until a woman is recognized by who she is as a person, and not for her sex. Another 117 years before the common noun for “Kalpana Chawla” becomes “astronaut”, and not “woman”.
For now, we’d rather have all-male panels choose a woman achiever; pay female actors far less than their male counterparts; let men take decisions about women’s sexual health; or in good-old Bollywood style, praise our daughter saying, “You aren’t my daughter, you’re like my son.”
Sarcasm aside, there’s a great need for gender parity now, than ever before. And it’s needed at every place a woman is present – at home, in educational institutes, at workplace, and in society. According to Ernst & Young, a survey it commissioned from Longitude Research showed:
“More equality: higher GDP
More equality: more productivity
Better gender balance on boards: better share price and financial performance
More gender-balanced leadership: better all-round performance
More women political leaders: more prosperity”
But then how else can you achieve better GDP growth, more productivity, and more prosperity without including 50 per cent of the world’s population in the script? We aren’t, at the moment. And the results haven’t been good so far.
Here’s our chance, though. We can internalize it, and truly #PledgeForParity this International Women’s Day (IWD), which is the theme for IWD 2016.
As my daughter taught me, god knows I have some day to go. You?
To #PledgeForParity: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/Pledge
For full coverage of International Women’s Day 2016 click here