Subsequent to my last column on the 11 year olds working on a project on ‘equality’, I witnessed their exhibition held in their school in Dubai. It was an exciting experience to see and hear them explain their concepts and their exhibits. The amount of work done was amazing and wonderfully satisfying to say the least. Besides the topic of equality there were a dozen or more subjects being worked on by small groups of children for their projects- the children had worked really hard on understanding the various concepts to finally present them to teachers, parents and guests. On the stall on ‘inequality’ a copy of my last week’s column ‘Persona’ was exhibited too. My interview which they had conducted meticulously was also highlighted. It was one of the most interesting highlights of my stay in Dubai. The girls from the international school who belonged to different countries were interested to know the status of girls in India and tried comparing it to other countries across the globe. They were shocked to know the dropping sex ratio of girls in India and other Asian countries. They were equally shocked to know about discriminatory cultural practices that existed. They agreed that knowing that gender inequality existed in reality in many countries was a revelation for them. Although I felt sad for them I was happy that they were being sensitized about the issue early on in life.
Talking about sex ratio, a Vietnamese mother made news by aborting 18 female foetuses after she already had four girl children. Her husband in quest for a son subjected her to tremendous psychological pressure as he searched for another woman who would help him conceive a son for him. In agony at each pregnancy she would get herself screened for determining the sex of the foetus and then abort it, until she finally gave up. They say Vietnam has seen a ratio of 150 boys to 100 girls recently because of such practices. This was the case with China too some years ago. Most countries are becoming aware of such barbaric practices and have begun to perceive things from a modern and humane perspective. Government and policy planners are aware of the socio cultural ramifications of such demographic imbalances. Marriage as an institution will suffer and crimes against women will go up as men will fail to find women as partners as they gradually diminish in numbers. Many countries are making efforts to bring in modern and egalitarian attitudes by encouraging women’s participation in public policies and implementation.
‘Stop judging me and start loving’ was the title of the project by the 11 year old girls. It had a powerful message and a simple way of saying it. Why should people be judged on the basis of their skin colour, or work status or gender was the question these girls were exploring. And they arrived at the basic truth that all people are equal and should be treated as such whatever may be their differences. That’s what modernity is all about. All human beings are born equal and should not be divided on the basis of whatever categories you can think of. Stop judging women and start loving them they said. When young girls can think like this why do adults become judgemental was a big question we needed to ask.
Dubai has a large number of international schools and the social cultural fabric also has an international flavour. Not surprisingly then, the UAE ranks first out of 132 countries for “Women Treated with Respect” in the Social Progress Index 2014. Here in Dubai some remarkable changes are visibly taking place to combat the gender gap. The UAE Cabinet has approved a decision to establish the UAE Gender Balance Council to enhance the role of UAE women in all fields of work. The aim is to reduce the gender gap between the sexes at work in all sectors of the state to achieve gender balance in decision making and strengthening the position of the UAE in Global Competitiveness. This speaks of the tremendous efforts of the government of UAE to strengthen the role of women in all walks of life, being essential partners in the making of the future to achieve sustainable development. The Council will carry out several functions, including review of legislation, policies and programmes to achieve gender balance in the workplace and to recommend activating international resolutions and agreements pertaining to gender balance in the workplace. This is the need of the hour you would agree.