I intended to make this post on the eve of the new decade over a year and half ago, but at the time I opted to make an ode to the decade instead. March 8th, 2011 is the 100th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day– and I thought, what would be more perfect than starting then to write in regular intervals about women who have inspired me (and countless other young women). This entries be posted under the tag: “women who inspire“.
One of the earliest memories I have is that of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on a television news programme, and my mother in the background remarking, “look she’s so strong and brilliant—you can be like her”. My mother herself grew up in the violence of the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq war, where she saw the rights and representation of women erode day by day. So she wanted me, her daughter, to live in a world where there were no frontiers. A world where I was equal, and could aspire and become anything I wanted to be.
In time, however, I realized that world was not a reality. That, in fact, I lived a world deeply divided along the fault lines of gender. A world where women constitute 60% of the world’s poorest, living on less than $1 a day. A world where women make up make up two-thirds of the illiterate, and less than 16% of the world’s parliamentarians. 1 A world where women produce 60-80 percent of the food supply, receive 10 percent of the income, and own less than 1 percent of the means of production.2 A world women are subject to slurs and violence inside and outside their homes, in times of peace and war, by strangers and those close to them. Women’s basic human rights are brought to legislature, their judgement is questioned, and their choices are restricted. And even as gains are made, even as gaps of gender close, society still presents its false dichotomy: To be a woman is to be weak, to be a man is to be strong. But how could this be, when some of the strongest people I’ve known in my life are women?
In the decade I came of age, from a child to a young women, I looked for women who transcended these dichotomies and who could shine a light on my path. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far. From Manila to Tehran to Montreal—daughters, sisters, mothers, activists, scientists, artists, parliamentarians, teachers, writers… They are everywhere and they are courageous and strong. We are strong.Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi