*Written by Arlene Sabaris, selected as the winner of our blog post contest #Glassesoff
When I listen to a mother say to her son that a house chore is for “girls”or “it’s your sister’s job,” I think how often mothers and fathers are the first shapers of the character and behavior of children. We blame schools and teachers for our responsibilities and we also complain about the system. When, in reality, everyone should assume their part in this process of improving the indicators of gender equality in our countries. While governments have an important role, it all starts at home with the things we say our children can do, within the limits that we put on their dreams, in the bedtime stories we read to them.
The girls are princesses and the boys, superheroes. That’s the story we’ve been told since the beginning. Some have bravely dared to break the mold. But there are still consequences from family obstacles, when a girl wants to study engineering. Or personal frustration because the boy who wanted to be a teacher, is studying a scientific career. At the end of the story, the girl ends up being a bad princess, because her vocation was to be a superhero.
According to the last report of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC): “Regional report on the review and appraisal of the Declaration and Platform for Action”, Dominican Republic rate of female poverty is 28% higher than male. And according to the National Statistics Office (ONE), the economically active population is 57.3% (60.8% men and 39.2% women).
Superheroes go to work and princesses stay at home performing unpaid domestic work. Those women from the 39.2% are active because they dared for more. According to the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, women fill universities up to 62% of tuition. But despite having more years of education than men, their unemployment rate is higher (23% vs 8.7%) and earn less.
A document published by the Center for Gender Studies of the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo (INTEC) “Women, Participation and Citizenship in the Dominican Republic, Achievements, Challenges and Goals” indicates that 57.1% of women are outside the labor market, compared to 1.2% of men, because of their responsibilities for housework and family care.
What have we done as a country to change these numbers? The current government is working to establish 250 childcare centers to provide full day care to 30 thousand children and allowing the parents go to work. The mass literacy project also contributes to improve the labor access for both genders. My favorite show is one promoted by the Office of the First Lady, Angels of Culture, whose mission is to empower children and adolescents through workshops in music, literature, painting, dance, puppetry and theater. The picture below is an example of how the drum, a musical instrument that has been stereotyped for men, is used regardless the gender.
The truth is that government measures do not work if education at home is not transformed. The most important job is to form our children, and there is no college or salary to create awareness among the men and women who raise them. As parents, we are the first source of knowledge, thereby we must embrace equality at home, teach them to share responsibilities regardless the gender, given them wings to study whatever they stand out in and enjoy. Also show them that princesses can be entrepreneurs and superheroes can manage the house. Let’s raise our children to believe in equality. They will direct the companies and governments in a few years, let them become the best version of themselves and they will make gender equality a reality.
The future belongs to the princesses and superheroes who follow their dreams and help others to pursue theirs. If you already took your glasses off, education begins at home.
[vsw id=”129701850″ source=”vimeo” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]
*Arlene Sabaris is a business consultant in strategic planning and projects. Current International Consultant IDB for microinsurance with emphasis on women in El Salvador. Former Instructor in the global leadership program Presidential Classroom in Washington DC, former member of the Latin American Section of the OAS Youth for Democracy.