5 practical ideas to implement SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls by starting with your own daughter(s).
People often talk about how good or bad behaviour starts in early childhood. They go on about how lifechanging education can be. In this article, we would like to draw a closer look to implementing gender equality at home.
What does it mean to raise a daughter in today’s world? Which strategies and values will help her to live the gender equality demanded by SDG5?
Our five practical suggestions should give you the possibility to critically reflect on subconscious behaviours that you transmit to your daughters. By changing these patterns actively, you can contribute to breaking the vicious cycle and empower your daughters.
Number 1: What do you call her: Little princess or power woman?
Very often, people already start asking questions about a baby’s gender during pregnancy, as if this was an indicator for the child’s personality. Is it a girl or a boy?
Even if gender is not decisive for the baby’s character itself, it definitely determines his or her success chances and job opportunities in life, the risk of becoming a victim of sexist aggressions or even sexual harassment.
The sad truth is: Much more than biology, it is society that constructs men and women to be different and to have different opportunities. When people stick to pink and blue to separate gender from the moment a baby is on the way, it unconsciously creates a gap between men and women.
Funnily enough, some centuries ago, red, the colour of blood, was supposed to be the colour for boys, as they were believed to be fierce and courageous. This simple example shows how arbitrary the colour division is.
Arbitrary or not, calling your baby a “princess” from the very moment she is born, unconsciously gives her the feeling to be “pretty”, “precious” and in need of protection.
How can a baby girl evolve from being a pretty princess to becoming a strong, financially independent woman who feels equal to her male counterparts and is eager to take risks?
How about calling her a power woman? Or how about not choosing different pet names for girls and for boys? Just let them be free of predefined conceptions.
Number 2: What do you tell her: Pretty and cute or strong and brave?
As our princess example showed, it really matters which messages you transmit to your children. How often does it happen that you tell your daughter how pretty and cute she is while wearing a dress?
Is wearing a dress and being pretty even a merit? By repeating it over and over again, you give her the feeling that she must define herself by her looks.
Some parents spend hours to do their young daughter’s hair as if they were dolls. That teaches them one thing: Their value doesn’t come from intelligence or their ability to solve problems, but exclusively from their looks and beauty.
Boys, however, are often encouraged to try out new things, as they are believed to be strong and brave. And, here again, by telling this all over, they will start believing in their own strengths, while your daughters are left behind.
How about letting your daughter discover her own potential free from society’s expectations? Let her wear jeans and t-shirt and just be herself. Clever and brave, not because of her looks, but because of her curiosity and her desire to learn what captures her interest and not what the society wants to learn.
Number 3: What do you let her do: Play with dolls or climb up the trees?
There is nothing wrong about letting your girl jump around, climb trees and discover the world just like it is often so very normal for boys. By doing that, girls follow the natural sense of exploration that every child is born with and learn enormously about themselves and the environment they live in. Interestingly enough, girls who run around and who talk a lot are often called “naughty”. If a boy does the same thing, he is admired and encouraged for it. What is wrong with running around and finding your voice to express yourself? This can only empower your daughter.
Number 4: Who are her role models: Fashion stars or Rosa Parks?
What do you teach your children about other women? Is your daughter surrounded by TV shows where she sees perfect fashion models or popstar singers?
Does your daughter rather have posters and books about brave and courageous women like Rosa Parks who changed the world by their intelligence and perseverance?
In order to know where you want to go, you need to know your options. Inspire your daughter to become somebody great by letting her know about the success of other women.
Number 5: And what about you as parents: Classic role division or equality?
When talking about gender equality, children learn a lot from their parents and from their patterns. Well, do they only see Daddy go to work, pay the bills and repair the car? Or does their Mum repeatedly tell them: “Oh, I am not strong enough. Let’s wait for your father.”
Do the children see how their mother examines her belly critically in front of a mirror every day? These behaviours will impact your daughters. They will subconsciously develop an understanding of women as inferior to men. However, if they see Daddy cook and clean and their Mum going out for work, it gives them a certain confidence about themselves.
How do Mum and Dad interact? Do they treat each other with respect? Just remember: Gender equality starts in your house.
And what about our boys?
This article focuses on the education of girls. However, it is not enough to teach our girls what they can be and what they can do.
We also need to educate our sons. They need to know that they don’t have to climb trees. That it is okay to like reading books. That they don’t have to be strong all the time. That men, just as any human being, are allowed to feel weak sometimes, to cry sometimes.
By lowering the expectation of being the all-strong and emotion-free man, you also liberate your sons and give them the possibility to grow in this world and to be themselves.
So, to put it easy and simple: Why make a difference in education your sons and your daughters? How about just letting them be children in their early childhood?