This day is important for two reasons: it’s our anniversary and it’s International Women’s Day. At the larger scale of things, I guess the latter is more important, even though anniversaries are always a lot of fun.
Women In Europe
I have lived in a couple of European countries, where men give roses to girls and women on this day. It’s a nice gesture. However, in those very same countries, women are expected to look a certain way and behave in a ladylike manner. I was never quite convinced about this. Let me tell you a funny story from when we were working in Slovakia. We were moving places in the office and everybody had to carry their own desktops to their new places. Our manager said (to a team of Nordic people) something along the lines of: “Girls, the guys can help carry your stuff”. Never say that to a Nordic woman. We can carry our own things, thank you very much!
I live in one of the most gender-equal countries in the world*. It’s something you see in the workplace, in schools, in questions of parental leave and politics. This does not mean that things couldn’t be better. And believe me, this is something people discuss a lot. Salaries are still not equal, for instance. An open dialogue is the only way forward, in my opinion.
If you hop over the pond (in this case the Baltic Sea), you have another country that is considered fairly equal. A couple of years ago I attended a seminar where former Minister of Finance in Sweden, Anders Borg, argued that the reason Finlands lags behind economically is the fact that women stay home so long with their children. And it’s not only a disadvantage for the Finnish economy, it affects the women’s lives as well. While I can see why it’s desirable to be home with your kids, it is not fair that you will be dependent on your husband or partner.
Happy International Women’s Day 2017!
It’s easy for me to share funny stories from Slovakia or muse on the details of parental leave. The truth, however, is that there are plenty of girls and young women out there who are treated very badly just because of their sex. And this is completely unacceptable. The other day I read a book by Iranian comedian Zinat Pirzadeh who came to Sweden in 1991. Her book, describing the life of a young girl/woman in Iran, is far from a comedy. Sadly that story is a reality all around the world.
I think that the most important thing is that girls can grow up to be whatever they want to be. And here we all have a shared responsibility. It’s our responsibility to make sure that girls can attend school, that they have the possibility to learn. It is the only way they can make their own, independent decisions. At the end of the day, it’s a question of empowerment. There is so much that is wrong with this world anyway.
Let’s return to the personal for a moment…
Things I’m Grateful for as a Woman
As today is the International Women’s Day, I’d like to list some things that I am grateful for.
- I am really thankful for the fact that I have an education. I have studied more than my brothers and I think everybody from my parents to brothers is completely fine with that.
- At the mature age of 3, I told my parents that I wanted to travel the world. They thought it was a great idea! OK, I had to wait until I was old enough, but anyway.
- Nobody has ever pressured me into getting married or having kids. Actually, I think my decision to get married at all surprised my family quite a bit.
- I have never felt that I was worse off because of my sex.
- Nobody has ever told me to wear something I didn’t want to wear. I have always done what I have wanted to do. Any limits have existed in my own head, nobody else has imposed them on me.
- I have a husband who is building a nest for me because my skills in the area are not the best. Also, he knows how to cook and how to clean. And he doesn’t mind us doing those things together! Better yet, he does not expect me to take care of the household.
Last but not least, I want to wish everyone a happy International Women’s Day today – whether you get flowers or not!
In conclusion, International women’s day is a reminder to empower women. However, we should remember that this empowerment also comes from men. So, to the men in my family, I’d like to say thank you for being you. And to all the women; live, laugh, be yourself, and do what you want to do.
*If you want to read more about gender equality in Sweden, you can start here >>