Dear eight-year-old me,
I know that gender is not much discussed with you, either at school or at home, so I took on the responsibility of having this conversation with myself. I know that you are a little girl with big dreams, and I do not want any imposition from society to stop you from reaching them.
Probably you have witnessed various attitudes and situations regarding the “social role” of women which you do not agree with. I know you never understood why your grandfather forbid your grandmother from getting a job after they got married so that she would become a housewife. You will often hear that you can’t do some things you are interested in because “it’s not for girls” and you will not understand why you can’t have a skateboard as you always wanted or play alone with your male cousin.
Unfortunately, at this point in your life, violence and repression of women are standardized, and hardly anyone ever decides to question the behaviours imposed on children only according to the sex they were assigned to at birth, and I say children in general because boys also suffer indirectly with the patriarchy.
As society undermines everything that is feminine, boys are also prevented from expressing themselves freely, especially as they are taught that if they take an interest in traditionally feminine elements, such as dresses, dolls and the colour pink, or show to be sensible and cry, it is equivalent to weakness.
So what I want to ask you after telling you all this is: fight against it.
Resist, little girl. Question at all times the expectations the people surrounding you have of you. Know that you are not obliged to fit into the mould society has built for you, and, above all else, know that you are not alone.
This struggle has been present in the lives of many females before you. The devaluation of women and the control of power by men is ancestral, and I see this difference between genders as an offence to our human rights, since we make up half the population.
But that doesn’t mean we are going to stop or give up fighting. It only gives us the strength to continue and reverberate the idea of respect and a vision of equality. I do not know at what point you will become me, but today, as a grown woman, I choose to join all the women of the past and the present who dared to impose themselves and to oppose those who tried to silence them.
Be aware that, although many sexist behaviors still exist, at this point in time, when gender violence occurs, especially in a public sphere, there is a portion of the population that shows indignation and discontentment.
Although such problems still exist, they are no longer unnoticed, as there are people who question, who subvert social roles, who deconstruct the concept of gender and who, above all, feel compelled to demand equality and justice.
I know that it will be incredibly difficult to completely eradicate gender inequality, but I hope that, maybe 10 years from now, inequality will no longer be standardized, and that going against it will be the norm. So, for this to happen, I need the resistance movement to begin within you. Do not stay quiet, shout your opinions! Be always ready for the battles that you will face throughout your life because, I assure you, one day you will be victorious.
Your future self
Eduarda Binder and Bruna Almerão, Youth Power Champions, Brazil
To my younger self,
I know how hard it is to grow up in a world that favours males over females. A world that is more male dominated in all aspects of life.
Being female means you are weak and inferior. It means you have no voice. Even though you have an opinion on a matter, no one can agree with you unless they weigh it.
I know you won’t believe me at first, but please keep reading this letter to the end. You are in your early 20s and you seem not to understand most of the things you see around you. I am the older you writing so try and understand what gender is all about.
Women since time immemorial have been fighting for gender equality and the men have taken it the other way round that women want to rule over them. Listen to me, that’s not the truth. All that we ask for is to be treated equally; given the same opportunities such as jobs and equal salaries depending on our qualifications.
Run away, don’t walk, from people who neglect or abuse you. I hope to see improvements in the next 10 years in the way women are treated at their workplaces. To ensure productivity and change in the culture that has led to thinking less of women than just mother’s nursing children, house wives and companions who cannot have formal employment.
Dear younger self, what I am trying to tell you about gender is that you need to stand up for your rights. Fight against gender based violence, policies that discriminate against women, child marriages and corruption.
Dear one, don’t be afraid to be called a feminist. If that is what scares you to be labeled a feminist do not be scared anymore because you are not the only one and neither will you be the last one. Do not be afraid to be yourself even when no one believes in you believe in yourself.
Beatrice Chola, in Zambia