In the world of today where walls are built to separate, speeches are given to divide equals and we look now more than ever at the differences between us and them we need to look beyond our disparities instead and realize one thing: We are more alike than we are different. Instead of creating an invisible line between us and them we need to stand together. How else are we gonna win the fight against discrimination and violence against women, for gender equality and empower women and girls?
That doesn´t mean that we are the same. We are not. But more often than not we share many of the same struggles, have the same questions and share a lot of the same attributes and qualities regardless of the difference in the colors of our flags. Women of all ages, races, colors and ethnicities, sexual orientations, nationalities, body shapes and upbringings can still find common ground through sports, ideas, interests, music styles, shared values and interests. Globalization for better and for worse has made the world connect in ways that we did not see possible a few decades back. Traveling has been made easier and plane tickets are pushed down to a minimum offering us the ability to visit exotic corners of the world. Online communities aming at making the world smaller such as Couchsurfing and Meetup and forums such as Humans of New York, Everydayafrica or Streets of the World where human stories are shared show us that there are people out there just like us. The world is so much more accessible than before and it is easier now than ever to find peers with shared interests. New trends are shared through social media, and things “go viral” from one corner of the world to another. Yoga travels beyond borders and put women worldwide in warrior pose. Cat videos on youtube make women both in Indonesia and in Sweden laugh out loud. Instagram invites you to virtually join the brunch of some twenty-something brunching New York girls as well as watching the carnival in Rio de Janeiro. In 2017 we have this great oppurtunity to reflect on our shared struggles, problems and challenges and join forces and unite across the borders. And yet we distance ourselves from eachother now that we are closer than ever.
It is easy to do. Why in the world should I be made to believe to have anything in common with a girl from Yemen? Or from Bolivia? Or Taiwan? Heck, I don´t even have to look outside my own national borders. Minorities in Norway share little to nothing with what I go through, what I struggle with, my everyday life, my life in general. Right? How can even an Oslo woman with Eritrean origins of my age have the slightest similarity to me and my life? We have different skin colors, different upbringings and different values. We don´t really share any goals, achievements or dreams correct? Well actually I would beg to differ. We see women as different from us because they we choose to believe they are different from us. We see another woman and perceive her as different from us and distance ourselves from her. We make assumptions about her opinions, her values and her life without giving one thought to what she is really all about and about what we might share. It doesn´t stop with race, religion, ethnicity or nationality either. Admit it, we tend to take a step back when our female boss enters the elevator and we judgementally think of her as the iron woman with no compassion for others but herself. We even jealously look down on our co-workers because of their achievements, our co-students for good grades and our peers for achieving success in their fields.
Today on the International Women´s Day we raise awareness about women´s rights and empowerment and gender equality. We have to ensure that these rights are ours to have and are protected and never threatened to be taken away from us. Recent events have shown us that this is crucially important also today. These sexist ideas still exist in European politics. This unacceptable behaviour is still being downplayed as locker room talk. In many countries today abortion is still indisputably illegal no matter the consequenses (death, permanent physical or mental damage to the mother and/or the baby) or the cause of the pregnancy (rape, incest). Women worldwide in both high- and low income countries suffer under discrimination, violence, harrassment, ridicule, lack of rights, lack of protection and lack of opportunities. Just because they are women. Being a woman is dangerous buisness!
Now more than ever we need to take a stand, speak up, unite and work together to protect our rights. When we are accepting the idea we are bombarded with by politicians, by the media and even by our neighbours that the world now consists of us vs. them, us against the Muslim women, us against the black women, us against the Arabs, us against the refugees, us against the gays, us against the Mexicans, us against the job-stealing immigrants, we are slowly loosing momentum to protect these rights and ensure that not only you but every woman and girl in this would can live up to her true potential. We also need to acknowledge that all women do not have the same starting point and some of us enjoy privileges to a much bigger degree than others. We may share a lot but we also need to appreciate that certain races, ethnicities and nationalities experience discrimination at another level than others. This is why we need to emphazise on the fact that we share this fight and we should not leave anyone behind. These “other” women are not strangers or enemies. These are our sisters, mothers and friends. Even in 2017 no country has achieved full gender equality and by creating divisions and separations we are loosing ground to win this shared fight.
This is also why I enjoy traveling so much and why we all should travel more. I write this blog because I want to share my travels and what I see and encourage others to go beyond their own comfort zone. I want people to see something else than just numbers and statistics. I want people to see something else than the patronising images we are fed by the mainstream media of supposedly poor, oppressed and weak women and girls who have no opinion, no voice, no knowledge or no drive. I want myself and others to be forced to confront our stereotypical ideas about the other and instead find common ground, that be through passion for cooking, surfing, weaving, politics or whatever shared interests you´ll have with the women you talk to during your trips. We realize that out there are women you can connect with. Out there are women with dreams, passions, fears, sorrows and joys just like yours. There are women just like you, women who pursue a career or chase a dream although their obstacles might differ from yours. I´ve found friendships across borders and have found common interests with other women more than I could even find with many Norwegian women. And yet, I´ve also bonded with people from my country in new ways.
We still have a long way to go for full gender equality and enjoyment of rights. Some women might be further behind than others. But we are only as strong as our weakest link. By distancing ourselves from others with excuses such as “oh but they come from a different culture”, “They don´t know any better”, “They probably have other priorities and dreams” while we enjoy the privilege of having our rights and well-being safeguarded just doesn´t cut it anymore. We need to stand together and acknowledge that we all deserve dignity and the ability to reach our full potential. Some day we´ll get there, but if we walk together we get there faster.
PS: Fighting for our rights is hard work and all women deserve some rest once in a while. Whether you are going out to march in the streets today or you are marking the InternationalWomen´s Day on other ways why not make tonight the movie night for our great sisters around in the world who made a mark in history. Check out these movies for some input and some serious inspiration to continue to fight for our rights!