By Ouk Suntharoth,
“Come back home by 7 pm.”
“Why do you go out so often?”
“Why aren’t you married yet?”
These are some of the phrases that many women often hear from other people, such as family members, neighbors and friends. To them, it is “normal” to order women to do something or judge them for doing something because at the end of the day, they are “just women”.
Even though there are many advocates who have fought for equal rights between men and women, gender inequality still exists. In some households, boys are being praised and allowed to do whatever they want, while girls have to ask for permission in advance. However, in reality, boys, men, girls and women are all human beings, therefore, they must have equal rights, status and opportunity regardless of their gender.
In Cambodia, in particular, girls and women’s rights have been gaining much support from the public, especially in the education sector. Nevertheless, there are still many expectations and judgments against women.
For instance, the society always expects a woman to get married early and stay at home to look after her husband and children, rather than going to work and earning an income. A woman is also not supposed to stay out too late or wear revealing clothes; otherwise, she will face many criticisms. Most importantly, some of the people in society still believe that certain jobs are not suitable for women (often they think women are too weak, or studying for the career would only be a waste of time and money because women would just end up staying at home, or they think women are not as capable as men).
These expectations and judgments always hinder the chance of girls and women to achieve their goals because no matter what they do, there will always be criticisms made against them.
We, girls and women, do not deserve such expectations from society. We are also human beings and we deserve much better!
I am fortunate enough to be born in a household where inequality does not exist. From a young age, I have been loved and appreciated as much as my brother. My parents give me the freedom to do what I want and love without any judgment or constraint. While I get to enjoy such privileges, I understand that there are still some girls and women out there who are facing the problem of gender inequality.
Actually, I know a friend who, because she happens to be a woman, cannot enjoy the opportunities that I can because of her family’s perspective on a woman’s role. To them, women should stay at home when they don’t have class; women must not stay out late; women are not as capable as men and so on. These beliefs have constrained my friend to live in a cycle drawn by her family, which bar her from exploring her hidden talents and figuring out her real passion.
We are all living in the 21st century now—it is time to end such perspectives on women and start appreciating them for who they are, and their ability to achieve many amazing things in life and create many positive impacts on their society.
I am writing this not only to remind women of their worth but also to ask other people, especially men, to respect women’s equality both inside and outside their home. In the words of Freida Pinto, an Indian actress who has actively spoken up about women’s issues, “Gender Equality is a human fight, not a female fight”!
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.