By Michelle Adams, Staff Writer
As a generation, millennials are known for being progressive and opinionated. We are accepting, open-minded, and active in pursuing political, social, and economic change. More and more, we are taking a stand against prejudices in society, as seen in the millennial-led Black Lives Matter movement and our concern with the sexual assault lawsuit plaguing beloved pop star Kesha.
Furthermore, we have redefined the term “gender equality,” changing it from a goal into an ongoing mindset. In the United States, women have been largely victorious in their push for equality, and have won the right to work, vote, and even run for public office. Now, it is time to take feminism to the next level.
While women in the U.S. and other developed countries enjoy independent lives, millions of women worldwide, especially in the Middle East and northern Africa, suffer great persecution from the moment they are born.These women are subjected to lives of hell, with daily physical and emotional abuse. They are relentlessly raped, beaten, and oppressed each and every day.
In Yemen, women count as only half of one witness in a lawsuit, and they cannot leave their houses without their husband’s permission. In other nations in this area, women are prohibited from owning land; in Saudi Arabia, they cannot drive, and both Saudi Arabia and Vatican City forbid women from voting. In other countries, they may also lose their belongings in a divorce – and even custody of their children.
Girls are constantly robbed of educational and career opportunities, as if they have less potential than the boys. Women’s schools are attacked daily in Afghanistan, where only a decade ago, education for females was entirely illegal.
Meanwhile, 200 million women around the globe have been forced to endure genital mutilation per religious and cultural beliefs. Clitorodectomy is performed on young girls, especially infants, by older women who experienced the 'surgery' themselves, even though they often have no previous medical experience. This heinous and ancient procedure has irreversible physiological affects on the women who receive it, but the numbers continue to grow.
The worst part is, the girls don’t even realize what they are going through. Misogyny is ingrained into their cultures; many have never known any different way of life. But we as young Americans know it can be different, and we are in a position where we can help. They are powerless against their patriarchal leaders, but we can be their voice.
How to Help
One of the simplest ways to help is to spread awareness of these atrocities. They are not rumors; they are reality for millions of innocent women. Sharing the messages of the persecuted is vital to make change. As American millennials, we can write to leaders about our passion for this issue. We can get our Congressmen and representatives involved in the effort. We can create art, write articles, and create advocacy posters and campaigns that depict the heinousness that is life for these women. Spreading the message is the first step.
To get involved with empowering women, there are several organizations that millennials can donate to or join. Most of these initiatives focus on contributing to entrepreneurship and career building for women by providing jobs that women can thrive in.
One creative organization is known as “Trochet.” According to Wamda, a site dedicated to supporting entrepreneurship around the world, “the project gathers recycled plastic bags and sends them to low-income women to knit or crochet into creative designs and products like coasters, bean-bag chairs, or even new bags.” These products are then sold and all profits go back to support the women involved.
Governments and companies are also contributing to the job-creating effort by establishing careers that do not require many skills, like call centers in India. Despite potential lack of education, women are able to keep these positions, earn money for themselves, and work toward independence.
Other organizations work directly in the Middle East to make gender equality possible. The World Food Programme proudly states that they contribute to providing “women the tools to thrive” in patriarchal societies. They also look to educate men, teaching them to contribute to chores traditionally done by women, like cooking and cleaning.
We can be the generation that ends the oppression of women. We can earn the right to independence and education back for girls who otherwise would never get these opportunities. If we think bigger than ourselves, and step out of our comfort zones, Generation Y can turn the American feminist movement into a worldwide crusade.