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Equal Wings: Promoting Equality of Men & Women

Welcome to Equal Wings


Dear friends, thank you for checking out the Baha'i Academy's Sister site to our "Developing Moral Capabilities" blog. This blog was created out of a need to have a space to explore the first practical exercise which the participants in Baha'i Academy's course on universal human values. This exercise is called the "Equal Wings" assignment and allows the students to reflect on three situations in their extended family in which there exists inequality between men and women. It is then their job to come up with a line of action for each situation which will help move their family towards equality. We will be sharing strategies and telling stories about our experience here at the Academy in working with hundreds of students and teachers for change in their community.

 

The Chief Principle

The world is in transition, we are slowly crystallizing into a new global civilization. This transformation calls for a redefinition of many words and conceptions. One of these conceptions that needs to be redefined is that of the family. The family is so important as it is the foundation of this global civilization. It is in the family where we learn the attitudes and habits which we will carry out into the greater society. Let us explore one of the Chief principles which must be present in a family after the jump.


It is not outrageous to suggest that the family, the world over, is in crisis. One example of the family in crisis is the long term effect of divorce on children. India, a country traditionally with one of the lowest divorce rates in the world, is experiencing an increase in the number of divorces. There are families with one or two members who dominate emotionally or physically over the others, there are families which work for their own selfish benefits at the expense of outsiders, and there are families which focus on on the immediate fulfillment of each members desires thus sacrificing true happiness. Drug and alcohol abuse are also problems affecting hundreds of thousands of families worldwide. As a result of so many families failing to function correctly many alternative "institutional arrangements" for the upbringing of children have been attempted in many countries all over the world.


Foster Care is an example of an alternative arrangement for the raising of children.
Boarding Schools are another example of an alternative to raising children.

 
The conclusion that must be reached after studying these social experiments is that while they have corrected "certain shortcomings", they have also created new problems in the character of the children which have been a part of them. Thus it is suggested that the most proper environment for the raising of children in today's world, is in a family where the children are living with both parents while also enjoying time spent with the extended family i.e. the grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, and cousins. The principles which must inform how this family should interact with each other, must be the same which are to help guide the process of constructing a new world civilization which is rich in spiritual qualities, but also rich materially. 

At this point it might be helpful to clarify a point which is often misunderstood: the difference between the nuclear family and the extended family. When a nuclear family is mentioned, it most commonly is referring to a mother, father and their children all living in the same household. Another word used to describe this type of family is the "immediate" family. The nuclear family is not necessarily cut off from the rest of its extended family and in many cases enjoys very strong healthy bonds with them. The extended family refers to the members of the family outside of the "nuclear" or "immediate" distinction. Thus some members of the extended family may live in the same house as the nuclear family, but this is not necessarily so. Members of the extended family in some cases live in several different countries all over the world A joint family, as we find in India with many generations living in close proximity to one another is one particular arrangement of an extended family.  

There are many principles which should govern the interactions of family member and today we will discuss the one which is chief among them. This principle is the equality of men and women. To achieve this equality everywhere in the world and in all activities has been called "one of the greatest challenges of our times". It is in the family where we shape many of our attitudes towards greater society, and unfortunately where many of the inequalities which exist today against women get their start. In the first module of the Baha'i Academy's "Education in Universal Human Values" course our first practical exercise is to have the participants reflect on three instances of inequality in their own extended families and then create steps to help establish equality. Given below are some actual examples of inequality experienced by the Academy's participants, both students and teachers of other universities, and the according action which they felt would help improve equality.


"In my family, there is female infanticide. I would make them know about the value and importance of the female. I would also explain to them the laws against female infanticide and show some encouraging posters showing that males and females are equal."

"My Uncle and Aunt decided to stop my female cousin's studies and are forcing her to get married. I will talk with my aunt and make her understand that education is a must, and she should not force her (the cousin) to go against her wish."

"My father is not giving permission to my elder sister for teaching in school. I will convince my father to give permission to my elder sister. I will tell him that you are allowing me to become a doctor, then why are you not giving permission for her to become a teacher?"

"I'm not allowed to wear western dress whenever my grandparents or relatives are sitting together. I'll try to discuss with my parents that wearing any kind of dress doesn't make any difference in my thinking. My respect and behavior towards the family will be the same always. I'll also maintain my decency." 

A metaphor commonly used to describe the equality of men and women is that they are like the two wings of a bird, both are necessary to create flight.
 
"In my neighbor's home, the men eat first and then the leftovers are eaten by the women. I will tell them that this is not right, the equality of men and women is very important for our family. You should take your meal together because the women are a basic unit of our family."

"My uncle is very dominant, he just doesn't consider my Aunty's decision. I will have a family meeting. I will keep this point that we must consider each and everybody's decision and there must be gender equality."

"My uncle is ready to send his son for higher studies, but not the daughter. He thinks that the daughter gets married early and what is the need for educating her. I will show the problems in society which are occurring due to illiterate women. I will tell him that once one girl is educated, then she will be able to give her proper morals and education to her children. She will solve many problems by her own action."

"At the time of decision making, the male members are allowed to speak and the women are not allowed to give suggestions. I will explain to them that women are also intellectual and are able to make good decisions. Women can also offer some suggestions which may be better than men, so they should be given equal chance to speak."

The students then write up a report and we follow up with what the outcomes of the action were. It is in this way that we can learn together how to enact a change in our communities. In summary, the family is the basic foundation of society as this is the space where the majority of our attitudes and behaviors are formed before we bring them out into society. The family as an institution is in crisis due to the lack of principles to guide its relations. As a result of this crisis, many alternative arrangements have been created by society to raise its children. These alternatives cannot be a replacement for a child being raised in a family with both parents and contact with the extended family. The chief principle which must govern a families relationship is the equality of men and women.

Have you experienced or witnessed in your own life inequality between men and women? What are some of your experiences with working for equality? Please give your comments below.
 

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Lesan Azadi May 03, 2014

Raising Awareness about Gender Equality "When the two wings become equivalent in strength, enjoying the same prerogatives, the flight of man will be exceedingly lofty and extraordinary." (Bahá¡Çí Academy Writings) Dear Students In order to raise awareness about Gender Equality it is important that first we should be fully aware and convinced that gender equality is critical for enhancing the quality of relationships among men and women at home and workplace. We need to think about what equality and inequality mean to us. To do this, let¡Çs discuss the following questions. When you give your answer please mention to which question you are referring. 1. This question has a number of sub-questions. a. What is our view of gender equality b. Do men perceive that they are treated equality amongst other men? (Men please comment) c. Do women perceive that they are treated equally within a group of women? (Women please comment) d. How do you see yourself as being treated by the other gender? e. What do you do to respect the other gender? f. What do men wish to tell to other men about achieving gender equality? g. What do women wish to tell to other women about achieving gender equality? h. Equality vs. sameness: What are the talents and capacities of each gender that aren¡Çt shared by the other gender? 2. How can education bridge the gender gap, bring more health, equality and success to families and communities? 3. What would men like to ask of women and what would women like to ask from men in order to achieve more gender equality? 4. How can men support women and how can women support men at home/workplace? 5. Here is a positive/future focused frame: How can men and women both work together to realize the full potential of the family/workplace? 6. How can you take this message of gender equality to your extended family and colleagues?


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