Happy International Women’s Day!
I always love to celebrate this day, although I celebrate the women in my life every day. But, International Women’s Day makes me stop and think. I think about how much I have as an American woman. How many opportunities I have. All the freedoms I have (and hope to keep). All the support I have. Yes, it’s not perfect here in the US, but I know my life is so much better than many of my sisters around the world.
The theme for 2016 is “Pledge for Parity”. We desperately need to close the gender gap. Right now, the prediction is that we won’t reach gender parity until 2133. Seriously? We need to do something about this! So not acceptable.
There are loads of organizations out there that you can contribute to and volunteer for. You’ll find a good list here.
But as travelers, both male and female, what can we specifically do to help bring about this gender equality?
- Volunteer – There are loads of opportunities to volunteer while you are traveling. You can help with educating girls from teaching them English to teaching them specific skills that will lead to a job. Or perhaps you can assist in building a school or a medical clinic that will cater to women and girls. Volunteering is a wonderful way to empower women and those young girls who will lead us into the future. Check out this link or this list for some ideas.
- Acknowledge cultural customs – It’s always important to follow the local customs. Dress appropriately. Don’t touch a man if it’s not permitted. Men, don’t touch a woman if it’s not allowed. Above all be respectful. Showing that you respect their culture, even if you don’t agree, is one way to help bring about gender equality. If the locals see you dressing in skimpy clothing and being all drunk, that gives fuel to the fire on why a woman shouldn’t have more freedom. They think their daughters will turn into you! And they don’t want that. Be polite. Be kind. Be respectful. Don’t be a smarty pants. Don’t be obnoxious. Don’t get preachy. It’s still their country. And remember – actions speak louder than words.
- Treat every woman you meet with respect – Let every woman you meet know that she is important. Listen to her story. Be kind to her. Show her respect. Don’t disregard her and listen to the man who is nearby. Show her, and the man with her, that what she has to say is important. That SHE is important and has worth.
- Men: treat the woman (or women) you are traveling with as an equal – While you might grab your woman’s ass in fun at home in America, don’t do this in other countries. Treat your wife or girlfriend as an equal. With love and respect. Don’t grope her in public. Don’t show inappropriate amounts of affection. Hand holding is fine. An arm around her is fine. Sticking your tongue down her throat in the middle of the town square – not okay! And, treat the women you come into contact with as you travel with dignity and respect – locals and other female travelers alike. Show men of other cultures that women are your equal and that you are okay with it. Cuz I know you are!
- Support women-run businesses – I love this one. If you find a shop or a restaurant or a guesthouse that is run by a woman – support her. Buy from her. Dine at her restaurant. Stay at her guesthouse. And, tell her you love the food she cooked or the scarf she made or the clay pot you just bought. Build her up. Give her confidence.
I know that we still have a long road ahead of us. But, I truly believe that as travelers we can assist in transforming this world so that ALL women are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. It’s a mindset, an attitude. It’s cultural issues. But, I believe that the more we speak up and the more we do, the more we tear down those barriers.
It’s not just up to us gals though. Guys, do your part for women. Both at home and while traveling. Don’t demean us by catcalling to us. Remember – we are someone’s daughter, wife, mother, girlfriend, friend. And, call out your guy friends who do this. We don’t like it. We don’t like it in our own country and we don’t like it when we are traveling in some other country. Be respectful. We are not your “playthings” or your “eye candy”. We are people. And we have feelings. We have ideas. We have opinions. We are not just tits and asses.
Ladies, be respectful of yourself. Be respectful of each other. And, don’t let the guys treat you in any way that is demeaning or disrespectful. Call them out on it. If you are fortunate to have equality in your life, then help your sisters around the world have the same. Donate. Volunteer. Empower.
We need to keep chipping away so that we can achieve that parity goal long before 2133. That’s just too long to wait for something that shouldn’t even be an issue.