A collection of letters addressed into the future as part of a virtual time capsule, all discussing issues of women’s equality, from around the world.
To all future generations,
I hope by the time you or your peers read this, words like men, women, gay, lesbian, transgender etc etc etc are alien words. I wish that you have to pick up the Oxford Dictionary or a history book to understand what the above words mean.
We are humans. We have a habit of systematically segregating everything except garbage. We specialise in segregating humans into various categories.
Man. Woman. Transgender. LGBTQI. Caste in India: Brahmin, Kshtriya, Vaisha, Shudra, untouchables. Black. White. Poor. Middle Class. Rich. Millionaires and Billionaires.
All the above are interrelated and we have put a lot of energy and resources to build this imaginary structure. There has been many movements, protests and riots to bring down these systems of segregations but unfortunately in the year 2018 we still struggle with a very basic human right: Gender Equality.
I might sound insane, but I am 26-years-old and struggling to survive as a woman with aspirations!
To many I am seen as an unmarried woman who works in a man’s world and can’t cook. But I’m a woman who has dreams, aspirations and, most importantly, a voice.
On the positive side, there is a huge population fighting to break all the above segregated barriers and make the world gender neutral. They are doing all this to help future generations like yours lead a comfortable life in a world where gender inequality is no longer a stigma.
To give you a glimpse of the life we lead in 2018…
We have laws: each individual above the age of 18 is an adult and we provide excellent laws for women. Yet 70% of our population in India does not follow these laws. Women are mistreated, underpaid, harassed, beaten, raped, killed even before they are born because they are female and considered to a burden on the family.
The ratio of women in India in 2011 was 943 females per 1,000 males. Women in 2018 are struggling to break the man’s world and become leaders: only 2-3% of women are at powerful positions. I hope this is not the way women of your generations are being treated.
LGBTQI people do not exist in our laws. In India they are considered illegal. However, the transgender community finally got a few legal rights which justify them as a legal community and are beginning to get respectable jobs in various government and non-governmental sectors.
While our legal systems may have adapted to transgender community, our imaginary structure discriminates against them and treat them as the worst.
In 2018, we have laws, structures, democracy, access to technology and social media. Yet we lack implementation of laws, and suffer from corrupt structures, unequal access, misuse of technology and virtual technology taking over human interaction.
Well isn’t it better to speak to Siri, Alexa or Cortana than the orthodox patriarchal society that judges and discriminates people on the basis of the imaginary structures/categories?
Yours, Pooja, in India
Dear Future Daughter,
I hope you’re doing good wherever you are, and getting ready to face the world I live in.
I write this letter with great expectation from you. I’m displeased about the current state of gender equality – it is poor. For now, I do not know your father’s tribe. But believe me when I say gender inequality cuts across most part of Nigeria.
When you come into the world, do not be surprised to hear some irrational comments like “you can’t do this because you’re a girl”, “you can’t inherit your father’s property because you’re a girl”, “do not sit like that, you’re a girl”, “do not play like the boys”, among others.
These comments will humiliate and demoralise you as they did to me. However, now that I have the opportunity to warn you beforehand, I’ll give you some tips to guide you.
Do not listen to preachers who preach against women’s rights. Do not listen to teachers who teach against women’s empowerment. Do not listen to rulers who rule against women in power. Live life to its fullest, do not let anyone deprive you of living as human.
See, I was born in a time where I was meant to believe everything said against women. They said it’s a man’s world so my lips were sealed and my body subject to men’s authority.
Now you know the truth of the matter, guide yourself with knowledge and get ready to face reality.
With love from,
Dear girls of the next generation,
I am very glad to write this letter to you because I know you will be working a lot towards achieving gender equality in the world.
The generation of our grandmothers suffered a lot due to inequality, a little more than the generation of our mothers, and our generation is struggling hard to make the world equal for your generation. So, I hope your generation will enjoy more rights than we do. But it will not be the end, for it is only the beginning of the equality. You will still have a way more to go for your next generation.
In 2018, the issue of gender campaigners is different in the different parts of the world ranging from Chhaupadi (the tradition in western Nepal where girls in periods are compelled to live out of house in small sheds and not allowed to eat nutritious food), Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Africa, and pay gap in developed countries. I hope the issues will not be this serious for your generation. I wish that you will have to advocate for your rights and not against extreme human rights violation for women, like of today. I believe that with the achievement of Global Goal 5, those serious issues will have been phased out in our societies.
In our generation, celebrities are also being more aware and open about advocating the equality and we are very thankful for Emma Watson for being the role model to our generation of girls. Your generation will certainly have a lot more people advocating about equality and it will definitely be very helpful to our movement of feminism.
Also campaigns like Youth Power are inspiring the youths from all over the world to take positive actions from our own levels. I hope you will also get to involve in such campaigns and get inspired as well as inspire many youths all over the world because our small steps sometimes are milestone to set up a huge change in the world.
I hope I can experience the equal, peaceful, clean, green and sustainable world in our generation but if unfortunately, our generation could not reach there, our best wishes are always with your generation. You are not just a tender princess but a strong, bold, determined, talented, intelligent, kind and a brave queen, able to rule the world. It will be our greatest achievement when you reach to that stage.
I cannot recall the last time I wrote a letter to someone but I felt very excited the whole day today thinking about it. I had a lot in my mind to say.
Despite progress made enhancing gender equality, there are still a lot to be done. A woman’s world is shaken upside down by the patriarchal dominated norms and narratives. Rights that were asked for in many ways but still conditioned at various angles and levels making the path we are taking more and more challenging.
Most of the time, it seems we do feel comfortable to differentiate human rights and women’s rights. However simply put, Women’s Rights are Human Rights. Period.
I hope and I work and contribute and commit to do more that in the next 10 years to stand firm and make things better for ourselves and for those following our paths.
I am grateful for those strong women, young women and girls standing beside me and supporting me to become who I am and reminding me who I am and who I can be through my highs and lows fully with my flaws and my strengths.
Don`t be afraid to questions norms and challenge them. It feels OK to be different – you are differently amazing! Push your boundaries.
Use your voices to advocate, denounce and claim for justice and equality. Unlearn, learn and learn and unlearn.
Hold the moment, own the movement as this cause is mine and yours and it speaks and will speak our truths, together, not just for ourselves but for the future generation coming after us.
Lana Razafimanantsoa, in Madagascar
No one can be free until everyone is free. This slogan should apply for everyone who is working for gender equality. As a white, educated woman from Norway it is especially important to remember. I can’t see myself as free from gender stereotypes when too many people elsewhere in the world are not free.
The next four months I am working in My Age Zimbabwe Trust, as part of a volunteer exchange. Living and working in Zimbabwe forces me to step out of my comfort zone and see differences in real life.
It’s important to note that a lot has improved for gender equality in my lifetime alone.
But still things are moving much too slow. As a citizen of one of the world’s most equal countries, I can still see issues affecting girls and women not only in my own home country but all around the world. Women still earn less than men while doing the same job. Women still face far more harassment and gender-based violence than men do. The last months of 2017 saw the #MeToo campaign, where people shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault on social media. In Norway I saw men step down from political positions and quitting their jobs after multiple allegations of sexual harassment were made public. Men who have long been abusing their positions have finally been told enough is enough.
Maybe we will see a shift from only focusing on women’s equality, to a focus on gender equality. Are women’s rights only a method to get to the final goal – gender equality? As so much impressive work and improvements have been done on girl’s and women’s rights, it’s equally important to not exclude other genders. For centuries the focus was male, and the last years have seen a fight for female improvement. Let’s work together to include people with different gender identities into the fight for gender equality. I think this is the most important issue of gender campaigning in 2018 – to not leave anyone behind.
Trying to involve all genders in the longstanding fight for equality will be crucial for seeing true change. I will try to be open minded, take a step back and remember no one can be free until everyone is.
Tina Andersen VÃ¥genes, inZimbabwe
Dear Future Women Leaders, Typically, when we speak to issues of gender equality and women’s rights in Jamaica the usual response is that Jamaican women are doing well and are empowered, are perhaps a little greedy and are asking for too much. You see, in Jamaica, 80 percent of graduates are women, up from 56 percent in 2009. STEM (science, technology, engineering and science) subjects are still male-dominated, but with the increasing visibility of successful women in the field, that is changing too. Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers globally at 59.3%. Basically, the best-qualified people getting the senior jobs were predominantly women. Education is changing the culture. However, whilst women are clearly running Jamaica, men are still leading it. Only 18% of Jamaican MPs are women, Women made up 17.4% of board directors of the 53 companies listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) in 2012, with 10 of the companies having no women on their boards at all. The truth is Jamaican women have made significant strides through the years. Their accomplishments in certain critical areas should be celebrated, not used to undermine their achievements or to hinder their progress in other areas. I believe that women in national leadership positions are a major issue for gender equality campaigners in 2018 and the future. The fact of having a woman in charge makes a difference in all areas including the matter of violence against women and the victimisation of women. The #MeToo movement has been able to highlight that stubborn and persistent problem that we have yet to substantially address. The typical response from sectors of the society that Jamaican women are responsible for the violence because they are poor mothers, or ”asking for it” in how they dress is nothing but victim blaming. The Jamaican Gleaner in December 2017, reported concerning new findings that Jamaican men are killing their spouses and then themselves at a higher rate than men in the United States and other countries in the world. My late grandmother who will always be my example of a powerful, wise and caring matriarch was a victim of this violence and abuse. At a point in her relationship with my grandfather she decided to step out on her own and become a leader, she opened successful businesses, grew her children and cared for her community. Always finding time and food to share with those who needed it. I believe she could have been a victim but she decided to lead and be in charge of her own life. We need women and girls to take charge of their destinies because they have the ability to positively impact nations.
Mario Boothe, Youth Power Global Leader, in Jamaica