The strength of a girl is the strength of a city, a nation, and society itself. It is in the ebb and flow of life, from birth and growth, to the end where she leaves behind a world more beautiful – a little more open. She may one day hold in her womb, not only life, but legacies of change and discovery. This same womb that we treat as a means to an end. Or perhaps she holds in her mind ideas that could tilt a planet off its axis. She is the culminating point of the strength and hearts of her ancestors – how could her word not hold the weight of worlds? How could we tell her she is less than any man next to her? How is she cast aside when her experiences hold just as much value as anyone else’s? What are we, as individuals and as a collective, doing to liberate her from those constraints?
Ask yourself these questions, not through simple introspection but avid curiosity; ask yourself if you hold prejudices and misunderstandings of the abilities of women, compared to men. Ask yourself what you can do to undo the harmful and prevalent toxic masculinity that is entrenched in these girls’ lives. It may seem daunting, but the reality is that taking on this task begins with understanding the task itself. We must first explore the basic building block of this advocacy and the intricacies surrounding it.
What is feminism? Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. So why, then, do we encounter so much rhetoric about the “extremism and radical views” of the feminist movement. The answer lies, quite simply, in a lack of education and influx of media misrepresentation on the topic. Radical feminism is undeniably different, in that it orders a complete upheaval of any and every system and social institution involving the effect of the patriarchy on women. Some branches of radical feminism include extremist ideals, including placing women above men in many contexts. If we don’t properly inform ourselves of the difference between those ideas and the feminist movement, it is detrimental to people focused on advocating for equality.
Feminism at its core is fighting for the bare minimum that is not afforded to women: equal opportunity. It looks like advocacy groups, or social information events, or funding for resources specifically for women. It looks like holding space for the stories and vocalizations of women across the globe. It looks like working to abolish the wage and education gap, providing the same respect and consideration to women in professional fields, having the uncomfortable conversations with those around us to break the glass ceiling regarding ideas of what girls and women deserve and can accomplish.
Women empowerment ties into these concepts, pairing action with ideals. It places the tools in women’s hands and passes them the mic in any and every context where they need or demand to be heard. Empowerment is intersectional, as it frees people from the power structures that marginalize them. Muslim girls, Black girls, Indigenous girls, disabled girls (to name a few) are all subordinated in unique ways, and must be empowered uniquely as well. This means considering the factors specific to their lives that steer their experiences. It means educating the masses on the turbulence each of these groups face, and how individuals and communities need to create platforms and strategies to uplift them.
Today is the International Day of the Girl. A day on which we explore the beauty within our girls, and the value they bring to our societies, even at a young age. Today we celebrate and encourage their growth, while acknowledging the unjust barriers surrounding them. Today, we delve into conversations about gender based violence, employment stratification, patriarchal oppression, and a multitude of other injustices facing girls across borders. This activism and education does not end at midnight tonight, but rather emphasizes discussions and activities that need to be unfolding on a daily basis. We must take this day as a moment to ground ourselves. To be honest about the sexism and misogyny etched into our systems and institutions. To intimidate and challenge the ideals forced upon girls by self-proclaimed authorities. To learn and to teach this generation – and the next, and the next – about the power and potential of a girl, and the space we must hold for it.
I am a second-year sciences student at the University of Alberta studying psychology and sociology. I’m a Pakistani-Canadian and a Muslim, as well as a local spoken word artist! I enjoy writing and reading and painting - artistic expression makes me feel at home. I love poetry - especially performing it - as it lets me put words to the feelings of others (and myself) that often go unspoken.
Aaima Azharhttps://w4w.ca/author/aaimaa/September 15, 2020
Aaima Azharhttps://w4w.ca/author/aaimaa/November 10, 2020
Aaima Azharhttps://w4w.ca/author/aaimaa/February 25, 2021