“Girls must be told at an early age that they have the potential to become influential leaders before they fall victim to their own self-doubt”. These are the insightful words of Malala Yousafzaia, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.
These words continue to ring true regardless of one’s geographical location. Girls and women from around the world continue to be marginalized. For example, more high-income countries face challenges, such as, equal pay, maternity leave policies that allow women enough time to nurture their infants, and job security to continue in their careers.
It is reprehensible that females around the world are forced into marriage at ages as young as nine, punished for “immodest behavior or dress”, not allowed to drive, denied an education, excluded from politics, gang raped with no retribution, coerced into female genital mutilation (look out for my June blog), and the list goes on.
Females are approximately half of the world’s population (http://data.worldbank.org). Thus, women have to be allowed equal rights for human survival. Not to mention, we all have the basic human right to choose our own destiny.
However, supporters of female rights must be empathetic and meet those who desire or need support where they are. As public health professionals, we cannot force values and beliefs because we think they are superior or imagine a clear path to their implementation. We have to be empathetic, willing to learn, and understand the values of the community we are involved. We can provide education on evidence-based health practices and provide availability to health care, education, financial training, etc. These changes will come from within the community, so we have to develop partnerships within the community and provide the necessary tools that will build capacity and self-reliance. Let’s encourage the enhancement of inherent positive cultural attributes, increase self-esteem and self-awareness with financial resources and training to optimize the quality of life.
All persons have the right for their basic needs to be met and to feel confident and empowered. All persons deserve the opportunity to realize their potential. Education and opportunity is the key for making the world better. The survival of humanity depends on the synergy of women and men.