International Women's Day

Unlearning biases for gender equality

Published On: March 8, 2022 04:23 PM NPT By: Narbada Ghimire  | @@NarbadaGhimire

Women’s agency and dignity is not a matter of women only. It is our collective issue. A woman makes and shapes a family and a community. Her role is decisive for the health and wellbeing of any household. So is the role of a man. Women’s rights and equality is not a war against men. Men are already on board in this. We need to raise our sons right to make it happen for everyone.

When it comes to parenting, each one of us has our own opinions and priorities. Raising a child right who grows into a good human being that makes the community and world a safer and better place to live in is not a piece of cake. Parenting is not a job in isolation. A child is morphed into an adult with heavy influence of extended and immediate family members, community, schools, universities, social media, celebrities and the list keeps on going forever. As a mother of a four years old baby boy, I am deeply aware and concerned that every day affair that is consumed on a daily basis, values reinforced in schools, at home, socialization process including the attitude of friends and families and its outcomes are going to shape my boy’s values and attitudes. It makes me realize that raising him right is going to be an uphill task. It is going to be a huge challenge, heavier and difficult than any other challenge I have or will ever face in my life.

As an individual, I am aware of my limited control over so much hatred, misogyny and assault of all kinds – emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual against women, children and people belonging to vulnerable groups and categories. Technology changed us into a global village but also allowed us to be aware about so much of injustice, atrocities, cruelties and terror that exists all around the world. All one can do is hope and pray for everyone’s good. Nevertheless, amidst all of these, I should be raising a boy whom I would want to grow into a wise, morally grounded and ethically strong individual – someone culturally and emotionally intelligent who would protect the weak, vulnerable and helpless, treat women around him and in his life as an equal, honor their dignity, existence and make them feel seen, heard and respected. His lessons would begin from home. I am wondering how he would pick his message and draw his lessons based on how people around me behave and deal with me. To be honest, how I am treated by people around me is going to shape how he treats his friends, female colleagues and his life partner. It starts with family and community including public space for sure.

I know my boy has his father as his best role model. He will have enough good lessons to learn from the open mindedness of his grandfather and mama. He would know very well that someone like his mother capable of raising her voice and asserting her concerns is impossible to exist without the love, support, and contribution of male members who exist as her father, brother, friends and colleagues in her life. Nonetheless, he will have higher barometers to meet and I am obliged to shape him up for that. On the contrary, I wonder what lessons he would draw when he finds his mother is labeled as too loud, too opinionated, unnecessarily assertive simply for speaking her mind and incapable of fitting in the box society creates.

As my understanding of the societal context grew deeper and wider, a rebellion for equality between a son and a daughter, an advocate for women's equality got gradually diminutive. I have started making a sound assessment of people’s attitude and values first and started expressing myself. I have understood that people understand according to their prior knowledge, prejudice, values and cognitive bias. Not everyone gets the point you are making. Most people are not ready to unlearn explicit and implicit lessons they have received all around them throughout their lives.Sometimes, I choose to keep quiet deliberately to save my energy for critical issues and situations as life is unfair most of the time and you have to live with it. And Again, I wonder what my boy would make up of his mother’s silence and my demure. What will he learn for himself?

Moreover, I belong to a society where rape of a minor still becomes a subject of argument. Unfortunately, those arguing for and against the issue belong to creative business with the huge potential of showing a mirror to the darker side of society and enabling us to change for good. He will have seen and heard thousands of such cases shaping his masculinity and his opinions of women and gender equality. Again, it sends the chill down my spine.

Every time, there is a news of assault and violence against women, my girl friends who are blessed with daughters get inflicted by a terror. Their own experience of emotional, verbal and psychological abuse is not less to worry about despite being empowered and financially independent. They are worried and concerned about protecting their girls while I am concerned about raising my boy right, thinking that the perpetrator could have been prevented from doing so with the right values and awareness. Society should have groomed them well. I honestly believe that we as a society should be concerned about raising our boys right since their formative years and worry less about shutting women’s mouths, increasing the length of their clothes and shrinking their mobility.

Home belongs to every member of the family so does the household chore regardless of gender. Same goes with raising and nurturing a child. No one can be a free rider in parenting as involvement and engagement of both parents is an instrumental force behind the emotional and psychological wellbeing of a child and an emotionally secure adult he/she grows into. There are rooms for adjustments and compromises for sure and life is neither absolutely black nor white. Above all, the other person in the relationship must feel respected, valued, loved and not taken for granted.

Besides family, there comes a big role in schools and colleges. These academic institutions must orient male students to honor the dignity and decision of their female classmates. They must be taught what it means to understand and respect the other gender as equal. Every college and university should have provision of counselors so that youngsters can consult and seek professional guidance whenever they face relationship issues. Several disasters could be prevented with these counseling sessions that could encourage them to respect the decision, wish and opinion of the person they are involved with. We have relatively gotten better in raising sons and daughters equal at household level. But this scenario has not changed dramatically outside the household space. Even those occupying official positions are not aware of what it means to be politically right and sensitive to women's rights. I am not going into detail in that area and save it for later.

Things have changed since we were in school. That was a time when we thought being a doctor, an engineer or any other technical field is the best and final destination one should strive to achieve in life. Both parents, children and school heavily emphasized on academic progress reports with good marks and ranks. We barely had an idea of what it means to be a good human being, its ingredients and importance for a larger national and universal wellbeing.

Better late than never. We have received our awakenings. Parents of our time and educators must focus on developing individuals with egalitarian values and attitudes. Studies from Harvard of several years on happiness proved that a healthy relationship defines happy life not money, power and status. A healthy relationship is only possible when people in the relationship are equally invested to make it work for each other. We need to raise our son’s right to make it happen for everyone.

Furthermore, women’s agency and dignity is not a matter of women only. It is our collective issue. A woman makes and shapes a family and a community. Her role is decisive for the health and wellbeing of any household. So is the role of a man.Women right and equality is not a war against men. Men are already on board in this. Their contribution would increase even more if we concentrate on our boys and factors shaping their thoughts and opinions. May this international women’s day inspire and encourage all of us to groom our boys better for our collective good. And I wish myself good luck in raising my four years old and seek kind support from people around me to treat me right to showcase the best example to my boy.


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