OPINION: Women belong in all spaces where decisions are being made
When women are silenced, we deny them their human rights, we take the power of choice away from them, we subject them to harmful cultural practices, we make decisions about their lives for them, we objectify them, we silence women when we marry them off early and police their bodies.
As we mark and celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021, I choose to challenge: I choose to challenge societal norms, beliefs, religious stands and culture on not creating a conducive and better environment for girls and women in all their diversities to thrive;
To thrive in schools through access to menstrual health management information, products and services that enable women and girls to stay in school and equally learn like their male counterparts, remember that menstruation is a natural bodily process and should be emulated by all. This issue is increasing the inequalities that a lot of girls and women go through in their lifetime. Let us all remember that even menstruation does not stop for pandemics!
To thrive in boardrooms as they use their voice and power to influence and change social, political, economic and health issues that have been seen and witnessed.
To thrive as they stand up and speak against gender roles which, for the longest time, have only encouraged them to submit to the man, cook for the family, be a housewife and take care of the house and children! I am sick and tired of patriarchal systems, lets fight them!
To thrive in their bedrooms by also encouraging men to be mindful of “consent” with regards to sexual relations. Women are silenced through the notion around “women have to be submissive” women are equal beings, they should not be forced by religious and cultural beliefs and practices, this is causing a lot of domestic and sexual violence in homes.
To thrive in leadership and governance positions where they are better placed to speak and address women’s reproductive health issues. They are women, they face most of these issues; access to sexual and gender-based violence support after going through violence, access to comprehensive reproductive health care and services after going through sexual violence, access to screening and treatment when they are diagnosed with cancers.
To thrive in their lives, to dress how they feel like, to post what they want to post, to look and feel good and not receive comments of “you have a sponsor”; women should equally enjoy their money, they work for it, they earned it through the same sweat!
To thrive in equal pay, for doing the same job as a man. We need to challenge these norms and not normalize them, they are discriminating against women globally.
To thrive in sports and science which for the longest time have been seen as man’s “best friend.” We have seen women winning in technical courses and jobs that were perceived to be men’s roles.
To thrive in being mothers; whether through surrogacy, adoption, birth. You remain a mother and nothing should ever change that!
To thrive in all the experiences of sadness and happiness. I bet there was something you got out of that experience; whether you moved out of a toxic relationship or friendship, made the first move on a guy, got pregnant, choose to love who you want, ran away into an island for self-care, lost a child, got your degree or even that job that you wanted.
Women of Kenya and the world deserve an equal future, although we have seen inequalities around girls and women engagement; women are standing up, speaking out, using their voice to influence, grabbing that mic, grabbing that seat! Women in all their diversities are needed in all tables where decisions are being made, we need more women leaders!
Women’s rights are not special rights, they are human rights! Women, you are smart, strong, worthy and powerful! Empowering women starts from our own homes; not in policy or political spaces, it starts from our homes!
Happy International Women’s Day to all the women in my life, and a special shout out to my mother.
The writer, Alvin Mwangi, is a Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Advocate in Nairobi, Kenya. Twitter: @alvinmwangi254