SHE Also Wants and Deserves Decent Work
“He’s a guy with decent job.” “He has the perfect credentials for the job.” “Professionalism” and “Decent Work” are some of the greatest attributes a man can have. Both men and women in my country, and in many other places in the world, have come to accept that, when it comes to having a rewarding career, the quality of masculinity is all-important. But are men the only creatures who are competent? What about their counterpart, WOMEN?
Why are we affected by gender from the moment we are born? Both women and men across the globe work very hard. Women hold up half the sky. Men’s work, however, is always perceived as more notable than women’s work. Throughout history, the work that women do has often not even been seen as “work.” In fact, the role of women in all aspects of society remains unappreciated. Even in this 21st century, in some conservative societies, “women with decent work” is uncommon notion. We are half the world’s population, yet we do two-thirds of the world’s work – thus you can’t say that SHE doesn’t work hard. Yet women earn one-tenth of the world’s wages, and own less than one per cent of the world’s wealth. We, women, are among the poorest of the poor.
If women work so hard, why do they get very little income? Obviously, much of women’s work like family and community work is unpaid. Yet even when women hold paying jobs, their salaries are often lower than men’s. This happens in developed, industrialized countries, too. What are the reasons behind this injustice?
In Burma where I was born and have grown up, traditional culture supports gender stereotypes and a belief that education is less crucial for girls than for boys, especially in times of hardship. Subsequently, women often get less education than men, resulting in a lack of opportunity for gaining well-paid jobs. Even when we have the same education and competencies as our male rivals, women are still paid less because men are regarded as the breadwinners. Additionally, as a result of having unequal opportunity, fewer women participate in workers unions or other associations that promote worker rights. As long as we can’t acquire equal access to education, REAL change will elude us.
Another reason why women are left far behind men is because tasks that girls are traditionally taught, such as cooking and sewing, are rewarded less than the type of work that boys are trained to do, like building and working with machines. Also, despite the fact that women are able to perform jobs that were traditionally dominated by men, women are still viewed as weaker. The fact is, some women are physically stronger than some men, and some males are more caring than their feminine counterparts. It’s clear that differences in capabilities are more likely due to a person’s individual qualities rather than their sex. Thus, despite traditional views, men and women can clearly do similar work and should be provided an equal access to training.
Some women have broken through these barriers and made great progress, becoming scientists and space pioneers. Even so, the attention paid to women in science and the world of technology is often dimmer than the coverage of men’s contributions. I have personally felt this bias when, after spending five years in the university specializing in IT, the alumni still considers technology professions to be reserved for men.
2011 is the time for a wake-up call. March 8th is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. It’s time to reflect on the historic struggles and achievements of women. The future of our women and girls requires us to listen to their previously unheard voices and to help them tap into sources of wealth, such as education, training and equal access to jobs that pay well.
This year the UN’s IWD theme is “Equal access to education, training, science and technology: Pathway to decent work” This affirms the importance of the idea that “HE is not the only one who wants and deserves a decent work.” We must use this opportunity to promote the notion that both sexes can walk together on the same pathway to a better quality of life.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.