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Poised for Progress: International Women's Day

March 7, 2019 • Rights of Women & Girls

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We tend to think of balance as perfect and somewhat precarious. It’s the perfect distribution of weight through the toes and limbs for yoga’s warrior three, or that exact mix of spices in your grandmother’s famous stew, or the delineation of time and mindset to achieve the perfect work/life balance.

What we sometimes forget is that balance doesn't come in one size or shape, nor is it the end goal – balance helps us achieve our desires, our dreams. And those desires range from a powerful body, to keeping your grandmother’s memory alive, to finding personal fulfillment. In the same way, gender equality – balance – helps us realize our dreams. It's essential for achieving big dreams, like increasing crop yields, lowering child mortality, and protecting the environment. Gender equality is a tenet to improve the quality of life for everyone.

In Kenya, one study showed that if female farmers had access to the same education and resources as male famers, crop yields would increase by 22 percent, and the GDP growth rate would double. Mothers who have education are more prepared to prevent common causes of death for children under five, including pneumonia and malaria, which would save an estimated three million lives. In the Ivory Coast, the World Bank saw an increase in $10 in women's income generated improvements in the health of children that were only achievable with a $110 increase in men's income. And the number one way to reverse global warming, according to Project Drawdown, is to educate girls and ensure all women are empowered to use contraception.

PMC and activists around the world don’t focus on gender equality to strive for some magical equation of different types of people. We focus on gender equality because of the positive results – we're dreaming of richer and better communities on personal, communal, and global levels.

Different experiences, diverse perceptions – it’s when people are part of a mix of people that we are freed to learn, to be curious, to be compassionate, to find great known and unknown joys.

Of course, assessing and improving balance is not easy. Our bodies may be the most tangible example, where we practice balance to improve our coordination and make life more enjoyable and less hazardous. The irony, of course, is that to gain physical balance, you must be willing to go into uncomfortable zones: let go of fears (and the wall), put yourself into unknown arrangements, watch and listen to others (who can seem intimidating or other-worldly), and accept falling as growth and learning.

In fact, assessing and striving to improve balance actively defies one of our strongest personal and social constructs, the instinct to actively avoid anything uncomfortable or seemingly precarious.

As we look at the health of our global family, familiar patterns dominate. But they don’t make us safer or healthier. And they certainly don’t make us curious or joyful. Continually assessing and improving “balance” – that’s what results in progress. And it’s time to start practicing some new poses.

It’s abundantly clear to people all around the world that the many intertwined social, environmental, racial, economic, educational, and gender injustices that exist are, at their hearts, predicated on imbalance. We see the vast and sorrowful imbalance of the distribution of power among decision-makers. We dream of a different future, one that is built on equality. A future built on interconnectedness, creativity, and compassion. A healthier and more resilient societal model than what exists today.

Fewer than 10% of the world's leaders are women. We see those who cannot read and realize that we are deprived of far too many thoughts and contributions, and two thirds of the world's illiterate adults are women. We know that forcing those in power to listen to other voices, to move into uncomfortable positions, will be fought violently by those who have become quite comfortable. But we also know that those who fight against balance, instead of working toward it, are weak and their perspective is hindered.

We see the lack of joy and durability – we see how much more we could be with the voices of diverse groups of people.

But this isn't to say that our search for balance is always clear, even to those of us fighting for it. People within our many movements and external people put different names to us. The human brain needs categories or classifications to understand, but some people try to divide us as though one label defined us completely.

I resist that. I am a balance of many things. I will not be divided from my fellow people and our many struggles about gender, race, poverty, the environment. I will not fall for the many falsehoods, like the ludicrous concept that raising up women lowers men. As the Bill & Malinda Gates Foundation wrote, All lives have equal value is not just a principle; it’s a strategy…When women have the same opportunities as men, families and societies thrive. Obviously, gender equity unleashes women’s potential, but it also unleashes men’s potential.

My liberation is intricately tied to the liberation of everyone else. Our solutions will be as diverse as the people who dream them. As we are coming together and pushing into new and uncomfortable spaces, and our movements are gaining coordination and precision.

Liberation. This is what we ALL gain from balance. We come to a place of interconnectedness, compassion, and creativity. We will see and grapple with the hard and uncomfortable, and come out stronger for it. We will know ourselves, and those around us. We will know real joy. This is why we won’t ever stop in our quest to better understand and better practice balance. #BalanceforBetter


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Written by Missie Thurston

Missie Thurston is Director of Marketing & Communications at Population Media Center.

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