by Shaira Camille Magtira
When I was approaching my teenage years, my father would always tell me to start learning house chores. I never had a problem about trying to cook, washing the plates, doing the laundry, or even folding it afterwards. However, a little protest happened in my head when I remembered the reason why my father wanted girls to familiarize themselves with housework. He would always say, “You and your little sister should know how to do house chores so your future husbands will never throw you away. No man wants a wife who cannot cook or serve him when he goes home from work.”
I was an active student during my time in school. I enjoyed participating in activities – dancing, acting, singing, quiz bees, essay writing competitions, you name it. I did not care about winning or looking silly while copying dance steps for it was never my thing. At the end of the day, I knew that I wanted to learn beyond lessons found in books. I was never sure about the profession I would take after high school, but I was more than certain that I wanted my existence to be meaningful and worth remembering. My father’s idea has outraged me in so many different ways. Why would a husband throw away a wife for her incapacity to cook? Why does a husband expect so much from his wife when he was not obliged to learn house chores as a little boy? Why would any man measure a woman’s worth through the things she can do for him and not whom she is as a human being molded by time and experiences?
Women all over the world continue to suffer inequality and lack of opportunities primarily for the fact that they were born female. Women, even in the most powerful country, the United States, were denied the right to cast their ballot until the 19th amendment to the US Constitution in 1920. Meanwhile, Filipinas only secured their chance to vote and run on public office in 1937. Globally, nations attempt to move forward today, but many women remain feeling trapped in a world where only men are entitled to choose. Figures from non-governmental organization Girls Not Brides highlight child marriage as one of the growing problems girls face, with 1 in 5 girls all over the world married before 18, 650 million women alive today married as children, and 12 million girls each year getting married before reaching 18.
Avoiding child marriage is not the end of inequality for women. According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people. Global statistics also suggest that only 39% or rural girls make it to secondary school, a lot fewer than rural boys at 45%, urban girls at 49%, and urban boys at 60%. Sadly, education is not a magical solution that would instantly pave the way for women on climbing their way to their set of rights. The World Bank’s latest Women, Business and Law report which measured gender discrimination in 187 countries discovered that only 6 countries, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden provide women equal legal work rights as men based on 8 indicators like receiving pension to freedom of movement.
The battle of realizing equal rights is far from being over. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s most recent Global Gender Gap report suggests that it will take 108 years more to achieve gender parity. Despite that, organizations and nations all over the world are working all together to make gender equality globally realized and acknowledged. Although oppression of women remains evident, these efforts to make a change do not go to waste as the report also finds the Philippines ranked sixteenth out of 153 countries, with Iceland topping the list. Even though the Philippines fell eight notches behind, it maintained being the most gender-equal country in Asia. In addition to that, UNICEF reveals that the percentage of female youth literacy has improved in 2020 compared to 1995, with 90% of girls age 15 to 24 able to read and write. The account also proves that more attention is being dedicated to girls’ health as HIV infections of girls age 10-19 plunged to 140,000 from 280,000 in the same timeline.
People praised Indian beauty queen Sushmita Sen’s powerful answer at the Miss Universe pageant in 1994 Her winning answer says, “Just being a woman is God’s gift. The origin of a child is a mother, a woman. She shows a man what sharing, caring, and loving is all about. That is the essence of a woman.” While it is true that women are natural nurturers, they also have the right to decide about the path they want to pursue. Women’s love and care can extend from the four corners of a house to the world, as they become doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, judges, drivers and whoever they want to be while they empower themselves and the world.
Gender should never determine an individual’s chance to education, work, healthcare, emotional, and spiritual needs. Like men, women are beyond society’s norms and expectations. Women are more than child bearers, wives, or daughters. They are destined for learning, dreaming, and achieving. Women are human beings, entitled to enjoy human rights the same way men do.
The history cannot be rewritten, but today promises hope for a better future. A future where girls are encouraged to pursue their dreams, where women do not have to struggle to be heard, where they are practicing the right to decide for themselves. A future that men and women can all look forward to, where fathers and mothers do not have to warn their daughters about compromising with the stereotype to survive.