He for She Campaign – How Can We Make this Campaign Ours?
On September 20th, 2014 Emma Watson, the former actress of the Harry Potter films, delivered a speech at UN headquarters in New York. She recently became the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. In her speech she tackled issues of gender equality, and gender discrimination. She began her speech by defining feminism as, “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” She launched a new campaign called “HeforShe” where she invites men to have an active role in achieving gender equality. This campaign strays from the typical women unite campaigns and forms a broader paradigm of support. Watson explains how gender equality is not a female only issue, but an issue that affects all humans. On an international level, reports are questioning the effectiveness of such a campaign. Her initiative focuses on equal opportunity and gender roles; but how can such a global campaign benefit countries where females are still perceived as commodities or possessions?
In Iraq, specifically Kurdistan, the lives of women were much more difficult. As a society, we have been able to witness a remarkable progress in a few years. Today, more women hold government posts, and are owners or heads of local businesses. This is truly remarkable compared to prior decades. However, we still have a very long way too go. Domestic abuse is still tolerated, and in parts of the region, still viewed as a norm. Female gentile mutilation is still practiced in large parts of the region. Female secondary education, although increased in the last few years, is still viewed as a taboo in rural areas. More importantly gender roles and stereotypes, I can say firmly, is practiced everywhere in our society. Women, despite the fact that many have occupations, are still molded into the ‘housewife’ stereotype. It is wonderful that women are caring and nurturing and want to take care of their families, but it isn’t wonderful that this role is forced upon them since birth. If a woman is strong enough to resist these types of roles or stereotypes, then more often than not, she is viewed as ‘too aggressive’ and often looked down upon by her peers.
So my question is, how can we make this campaign ours? What sort of measures can we take to ensure that it isn’t merely the females fighting for their rights, but the males too? How can we educate the younger generation to view gender equality as an integral part of society? We live in a patriarchal world, therefore having the support of males will inevitably take us one step closer to gender equality. I hereby invite all Kurdish males to support gender equality, and identify yourselves as feminists. It is the males’ fight, as much as it is the females’ battle. Use your social media accounts to support this campaign by using the hashtag: #HeforShe. Let’s see how progressive Kurdistan males are!
By: Alka Aziz