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Visualise and work towards change

Fiji Women's Crisis Centre Co-Ordinator And Former Fiji Human Rights Commission Commissioner Shamima Ali
Thursday, March 08, 2018

TODAY we mark International Women's Day — a day when we call for women's human rights to be respected; for SEXISM to end; for gender equality to be promoted. We call for a world where every single human being can live a life of dignity.

Sexist jokes, name-calling and violent sexist attacks happen all the time. Yet many people try to pretend that sexism is not a problem. If you look and listen carefully, you will come across sexism every day. Sexism means that some people make judgments about you, based on your sex (whether you are male or female) without bothering to find out what you are like. Some people get treated unfairly because of sexism. Sexism deepens misunderstanding between men and women and boys and girls, rather than them learning from each other and learning to live together. Thousands of sexist assaults and attacks take place every month, and many women and girls live in fear of violence, just because they are female.

What is sexism?

We are all human beings. Sexism is the mistaken belief by some people that one sex is better than the other sex. They think that people of the other sex are "different." But the truth is that everyone is different.

Sexism occurs when someone closes him or herself off from some people because they are a different sex to them. For example, boys or men might decide that girls or women cannot belong to their group or organisation.

As a result of sexism, men in most of our societies have more privileges than women. Sex-based discrimination (also called gender discrimination) - which also means giving attention, services, jobs or educational opportunities on the grounds of sex - is likely to be against the law in many countries. But sex discrimination, abuse and violence still happens in many places: on the bus, in the village, the classroom, in the shops… almost everywhere. Although people can take cases of sex discrimination to court, it can be very difficult to prove exactly what happened. However, when someone wins a case of sex discrimination, it helps to remind us that some people can stand up and claim their human rights and are willing to speak out and work hard for a fairer society.

If you believe that all human beings are born equal and are entitled to the same rights and freedoms, you will want to do something to make your society a safe place for everyone.

To change inequalities between women and men we need to visualise and work towards change - in our personal relationships (wife/husband, sister/brother, child/parent, female worker/male worker), and in our social institutions (governance, education, religion).

You have the power to challenge sexism in your family and your community. In some families and groups, children and adults are starting to discuss sexism and are trying to stop it. Change can begin by individuals getting together with others who are against sexism. Talking about sexism and taking action against it with your local women's organisations can also help. You can, in ways that work for you, choose to challenge sexism when you come across it. You can try to be fair to everyone you meet and to find out more about what they are really like by listening and talking, rather than making assumptions based on stereotypes.

This IWD wherever we are - Rural Fiji, Urban Fiji, Island Fiji - let us challenge SEXISM everywhere and promote women's human rights.

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