Maria’s Blog

You can help create a more balanced self and a more balanced world

Dated: Thursday, February 28, 2019

Author: Maria Shahid

International Women’s Day, on March 8, celebrates women’s accomplishments and their contributions to our world and shines light on the challenges and inequities they face. This year, the day’s theme is #BalanceforBetter, a call for creating a more gender-balanced world.

What does a better balanced world look like?

For me as a Pakistani woman, it means that I see more female faces on the streets and the busy bazaars of Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar. It means that when a baby girl is born, her birth is celebrated just as joyously as when a baby boy is born.

It means more men participating in childcare and domestic work, and more women participating in political, judicial and law enforcement institutions.

A balanced world is much more than just eradicating violence or discrimination against women.

UN Women’s #HeforShe campaign opened my eyes to the fact that men and women need to unite to fight gender inequality, and that gender norms can hurt men as well as women. Girls and women are more vulnerable to discrimination, violence and exploitation, but boys and men are also pressured, shamed, bullied and exploited if they don’t follow society’s very narrow conceptions of “masculinity”. By limiting people to certain roles, we deny them the opportunity to contribute their intellects, skills and passions for the betterment of our world.

A balanced world encompasses not only gender equality but equality for sexual, ethnic and religious minorities. It means more representation of men, women, LGBTQ people and individuals with disabilities in every sphere of life, and protection of their rights.

A balanced world also means that the voices of people in developing countries are heard in global governance, security and trade structures like the United Nations Security Council, International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

It means that in every country, we adapt ethical labour and consumption practices and respect our planet and the numerous species that call it home.

Here are five simple steps we can all take to help create a more balanced world:

  1. Move away from stereotypes like “Boys will be boys” and “Girls are weak.” Encourage girls and boys to pursue their education and careers based on their interests, intellects and passions, not based on their physical attributes.
  2. Give voice to people who are often ignored, like domestic workers and members of religious and sexual minorities in your home, office and community. Use the privileges that you have to elevate their voices.
  3. When you take, you also need to give back. Shopping is fun and buying things with your hard-earned income is not a problem. But by giving a small amount of your income (or time) to help someone to pay a monthly bill or a school fee or to buy a sweater for the cold winter, you become a more balanced person and society becomes more balanced.
  4. Expand your social circle. Forging friendships with people of a different gender, race, sexuality or nationality gives you the chance to experience the lives of other human beings, and teaches you how in our hopes and dreams we are truly the same.
  5. Finally, change always begins from within. By leading a healthy, happy lifestyle and adopting practices like conservation, vegetarianism and philanthropy, you respect your body, mind and soul.

Maria Shahid is a Pakistani writer who highlights the voices of Asian women through her Facebook campaign Women of South Asia and blog