Think about the past week of your life. Perhaps you went to school or work. You may have taken a bus, rode a bicycle, drove a car. In your free time you might have met friends for tea or swam in a pool. For women and girls in various societies across the world, these actions are fraught with danger. Women entering male-dominated spaces, be they the workplace, educational institutions, or public space, are stigmatized and marginalized. Yet, despite the obstacles, women are reclaiming these spaces, both literally and figuratively, as their own. For this month’s newsletter we focus on this reclamation and how it plays out in different geographies.
In Asia, Cambodian women who work in the heavily gendered beer industry are challenging the status quo. CARE International writes about how they are working with these women to reclaim their jobs as ones worthy of fair pay and respectful treatment. Nilanjana Bhowmick describes how Indian women are reclaiming public space in cities and towns by banding together to sleep in public parks, loiter in public, and ride bicycles.
Globally, Ruhi Kandhari talks about the assumptions that businesses and women make about gender and how these assumptions can hold women back in the workplace and beyond. Meanwhile Jeffrey Houge talks about how a simple campaign by C&A can help combat those assumptions and promote women as inspirational.
The #SignalsOfChange speak to the rapid changes that are happening in this arena. There is a critique of male only panels (manels), a new law in India that allows women to be the legal head of a household (karta), and a non-profit, Skateistan, that promotes skateboarding among young women in Afghanistan. Women are reclaiming previously male dominated spaces around the world. However this path is not without obstacles. The discussion of gender among the US presidential candidates is but one example of the challenges that persist.
Gender Equality is one of the new UN Sustainable Development goals launched in 2015. It is hoped that by 2030 we have ended all discrimination against women and girls. Women becoming more visible in public and in private spaces is one step towards achieving this goal.
Discussion: How can women continue to fight against cultural and societal norms to reclaim space? Please share your ideas in the comments box.
By Alisha Bhagat, Sustainability Advisor & Futures Centre Guest Editor
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Image credit: Lyle Vincent / Flickr