Every year with the run up to International Women’s Day I do a lot of thinking about what this day means to me, and it always brings me back to my upbringing and how in turn how I have raised both my children, my daughter and my son.
My mother, whilst on the face of it is an extremely traditional woman, has been quite the trailblazer through her life.
By all accounts she has never shied away from any kind of challenge and has lived life to the full. She still does, though now 81, she is slowing marginally.
Born in Kolkata, India – she raised her two younger siblings, and ran the house for her father from the age of 13 when her mother died. In that time she left school with flying colours and attained two degrees in Geography.
She and my father came to London in their twenties, the union of a love marriage rather than an arranged one. She worked full time as a teacher – first in a secondary school, then a primary where in time she became the head. She spearheaded an Inner London Education Authority initiative to teach English through the mother tongue in many inner city boroughs, and lectured at the Institute of Education.
None of this was remotely straightforward for a longhaired, sari wearing, never without a bindi Indian woman. But my mother lived her early life fearlessly with a “there was nothing she couldn’t do” philosophy.
I remember when I was about 6, my mother telling me that she and my father considered me their son and daughter (I am an only child). I grew up feeling I could be anything I wanted to be. To be honest, the only person standing in my way was me.
Perhaps, whilst my mother is a wonderful role model – as she was out being a trailblazer – there was little time to assuage my insecurities and shortcomings.
I know I’m not alone – I know many incredible women who question their abilities. This is why I feel female empowerment should begin at home and start early.
Maybe this is where women fall short at times; we give oxygen to our inner critic, in a way our male counterparts simply don’t. For me, it is a whisper but I am very aware of that little voice inside my head.
I suppose largely because of the way my parents brought me up I often console myself with the fact life has moved on, we live in a modern, progressive society, it is 2018 after all.
But on Tuesday I read something staggering; The World Economic Forum said it would take 217 years for disparities in the pay and employment opportunities of men and women to end.
Over 200 years (!) – I mean that is almost unbelievable and perhaps very starkly puts this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) Press for Progress campaign to accelerate gender parity into context.
I had no idea that as a gender we were on the back foot, to that degree. So if anyone was wondering why the IWD’s call to action is vital – you have your answer. And I believe, as mother, the work starts at home.
I feel it is our duty is to empower our daughters, and raise our sons and daughters in as equal a way as possible. I have been pedantic in my desire to raise my children fairly and equally.
My daughter is now 21 and I hope I have done everything in my power to raise a young woman who is comfortable in her own skin, assured in her abilities and knows without a shadow of a doubt that her place, a woman’s place, is absolutely anywhere she wants it to be.