Dear Malala Yousafzai,
You have touched lives. You have made children and adults stand up for what they believe in. Your enthusiasm for a gender equality strikes me. Indeed, every child deserves the right to education irrespective of their gender.
You took the correct course and fought for it when your country men were against you.
You took all of the pain, even for an unborn child. Indeed, you have given the girl child all over the world the rights that they have been deprived.
Thank you for making a positive impact in a challenging world. You are a role model of the 21st Century.
Dear Ellen Johnson,
I have pleasure to write these few words about our society today. There are many efforts to ensure gender equality and most of our villages and urban centres here in Ghana faces serious gender inequality due to limited access to education for young girls and women.
My role model is you, Ellen Johnson, the economist and politician and in my opinion very hard working woman. From 1999 to 2008 you were Liberia’s first female president – and indeed the first female president in Africa. You did a lot of good work and you inspired many women in your country.
You were given an award to recognise your efforts around promoting peace and championing women’s rights. I also look up to George Weah, the former football star of Liberia, who worked closely with you at that time to promote gender equality.
What I’m saying is that we, as men, must step up and work with women to promote gender equality. This is the only way we can achieve sustainable development by 2030.
Amadu Mashkur Sulaiman, in Ghana
Dear Sheli Rangsa & Sheika Rangsa,
March 8th: A day to celebrate the social, economic and political achievement of women. A day to celebrate progression towards gender parity. A day to recognise the challenges some women particularly face.
Every day our International Citizen Service team see both of you working so hard. You prepare three meals a day, tea and other food twice daily for anything up to 80 people at times. You both do so with smiles on your faces and are happy to change menu ideas to suit people’s preferences. You both trek from your homes and start at 5:30am to ensure that you have enough time to get the oven fires started, and you leave well after 9pm, only to begin again at home, preparing food for your families and tending to your family’s needs.
You both laugh and explain that you cannot have a day off because we will all go hungry if you both did, however the pair of you work in 6 seasons of the year with no bonuses, no benefits, nor enough recognition. You only sit to eat once those you serve have eaten, and cannot take a day off for sickness, as the 300tk cost for somebody else to cover is not worth giving up. After cooking and quickly eating yourselves, you wash all plates, pots and utensils and get straight into preparation for the next meal.
Didi, you are 38 years old and have three children. Two are teenagers, autistic and developing blindness with the other being just six-years-old. After your work day you must cook for your whole family, look after your children & support your husband who has been working his manual labour job. It has been said that you provide a 24 hours’ service at work and home, but you believe that “you must work hard to have a good life”
Ambi, you are 60-years-old and have four children. All are married, but you have provided for your family for many years and still must cook every night for your husband. With your family grown up, married and spread out, regular support is not so easy to come by, as well as support from the government in old age.
Often in the world we live in, recognition is not given when it should be, your mistakes are what stay in people’s minds, your hard work goes unnoticed and people fail to see the wider picture. We thank you immensely for your hard working attitude, the beautiful food to prepare for us and the cheerful attitude you each display.
Thank you for teaching us to be content in life, to work hard and that cheerfulness is key. You both say that working hard like you do is just “Life” but instead we call this amazing.
Scott Backler & Antor Hajong, ICS Team Leaders in Bangladesh
In light of International Women’s Day I wrote an open letter to my professor and dissertation supervisor who taught me about the ‘Performance of Masculinity’.
While learning about how vital personal identity is, he helped me understand the world around me through our obsession with gender expectations and norms.
Thank you for being a man that stands up for gender equality.
Thank you for being a person that reveals our warped and binary understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman.
Thank you for teaching me about masculinity and how we see the ‘power’ as the norm from which we all differ; against which we are marked as ‘weak’, ‘different’, and ‘non conforming’.
Thank you for teaching me in a way that wasn’t dominated by bias or opinion but through fact and explanation, punctuated with your own passion for the theory of gender.
Thank you for revealing to me the many struggles that men face in forging their own identity in a world where women are fighting to own an identity in the first place.
Thank you for teaching me to question; to look at everything through a gender lens; for opening my mind to the construct of gender and diversity of our own performance within it.
Thank you for considering this a subject worthy to teach.
You made me the feminist, woman and human I am today.
Laura, in the UK