International Women’s Struggle to Break through BarriersMay 28, 2009
On the same day that I read about four women winning seats to the Kuwaiti parliament, I also read a blog post on Muslimah Media Watch about a report that found levels of anorexia among teenage girls in the United Arab Emirates were nearly double those in the United Kingdom. The comments to the post raised the point over and over again that there are many factors that cause eating disorders: desire for sense of control, media influence, low self esteem, etc. The point was made that just because a woman wears a hijab doesn’t mean she is “unaffected by media and social pressures.”
This idea brought me back to a conversation I had had over the weekend with my boyfriend’s family — who are from Egypt and Iran — about their perceived idea of women’s total equity here in the United States. To diffuse the situation after I sarcastically advised we should look to our female U.S. presidents for answers, I said that, comparatively, it must seem like there is equity here in the United States.
The problem is that it is often easy to look at the struggles and victories of other countries rather than focus on the many issues still plaguing women in the United States. More than once I have interviewed fellowship and grant alumnae who say that, in their work or research on women’s rights, they are surprised to find that many of the struggles are similar across the board.
Ensuring equity in education and the workplace are the first steps to building self-esteem and developing a sense of control. These skills in turn help women fight for their place in politics and against media and societal pressures to reach their full potential. This is true whether it’s someone like Lily Ledbetter earning her fair pay or a woman in the United Arab Emirates feeling good about her body — however it may look under her hijab — or one of the four women who now proudly sit on the Kuwaiti parliament.