While westernised societies have seen women actively achieve gender equality, other less developed countries see women fighting for basic human rights. Women were often forced to adhere to the strict stereotypical roles that were given to them, but many have begun to break free from those roles in the last 100 years.
Access to education has opened women’s eyes around the world to the realisation that they deserve to follow their dreams without having to face gender inequality. Sadly, not all women enjoy the right to education and their roles are therefore determined by their specific culture, religion, and sometimes ancient and severely outdated traditions. It seems like common sense that women should be entitled to the same opportunities as men, but there is still a great deal of social resistance in many regions of the world when it comes to offering an equal playing field.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, let us look at the how different parts of the world shape the roles of the women that live there. Let this offer insight into how far women have come and the struggles they still sadly face in many parts of the world.
Women in westernised societies like Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States have come a long way in terms of gender equality in the past 100 years. While most women in the past played the role of homemaker and wife, the expectation for them to play this role has since changed dramatically. It is now almost expected that women will enter the work force and almost any career path is an option for them. Women are now elected to lead nations and have shown they are capable of becoming anything from astronauts to sports stars.
Women in westernised societies enjoy most of the same rights as men, including things like the right to vote, drive, and ability to own land, access to education, and protection against violence. The gender pay gap is narrowing and many countries such as Canada and Sweden are seeing women nearly equal representation in government. It is becoming increasingly common for men to stay at home and be the primary homemaker / carer while women work to provide for their family. European countries like Sweden, Estonia, Iceland, and Norway (to name a few) have in recent years replaced maternity leave with a more gender neutral paternity leave policy.
Remote Tribal Communities
While gender roles will vary greatly depending on the tribe and region, women in tribal communities often face the harshest conditions and are generally restricted to the ancient roles women were expected to play.
Many tribes, especially in regions like Northern Africa, have refrained from integrating into modern society, instead holding onto their tradition culture. Men are trained to be warriors while women learn to gather food, cook, clean, and bear children. Tribes such as the Maasai (one of the oldest tribes in Africa, present in Kenya and Tanzania), are most often patriarchal and relationships tend to be polygamous. Women will share a husband, and there is often a large age gap between young women and their older spouse.
Although there has been some progress when it comes to women in developing countries gaining more freedoms, many still face a long uphill challenge in regions like South America, Africa, and Asia. One of the biggest hindrances to women in developing countries is the lack of access to education, which has sadly resulted in women accounting for two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population. Women are often expected to adhere to more outdated roles, where they stay at home, cook, and care for children.
Who rules the world? Girls! While the Amazons may have been a mythological band of women who ruled Themyscira (Wonder Woman reference), there are many matriarchal societies around the world today where women are in charge. And many scholars believe that this is the way human society originally was; millions of years ago women were revered as high priestesses, though sometime around 3,000 BC the balance of power shifted over towards men.