I attended an event on March 2, 2015 at the New America office in Washington D.C. called Asia’s Unsung Female Leaders. This event was conducted under New America’s Breadwinning-Caregiving program. This event was scheduled with the release of the e-book, “It’s Not Ok”, that the panelists helped in creating. This book discusses first hand stories of the oppression that women face in these Asian countries. The panelists were Zin Mar Aung (Co-founder, RAINFALL, Winner of International Women of Courage Award in 2012, and Co-founder, Yangon School of Political Science), Catherine Antoine (Director and Managing Editor, Radio Free Asia Online, and Executive Producer, “It’s Not Ok”), Binh T. Nguyen, MD (Director, Human Rights For Vietnam PAC, Former chair, Virginia Asian Advisory Board, and Director, Virginia Foundation for the Humanity and Public Policies), and the Moderator: Elizabeth Weingarten Associate Director, Global Gender Parity Initiative.
The discussion started after a brief video describing what the book is about. The focus of the panelists was to engage the audience in telling the truth about how women are treated in the Asian countries and how we can help. Women are not seen as natural leaders in many of these cultures and therefore are tossed aside. Many times education stops at the end of high school for girls, and they are not given the opportunity of higher education like their male counterparts. More times than not women are burdened as the sole caregiver for the family and therefore this limits their ability to get and maintain jobs. Ads in newspapers for jobs that women can apply for have the age, height, and look the woman must have in order to apply. Women are often hired in mid-management to make it seem like there is equality. This is not the case because these women have no authority to make decisions and are used as tools by men to manipulate policies or to ensure that corruption will not be exploited because women are docile in the workforce and have no power to speak up in these communist regimes.
Women in these countries are now realizing that it is up to them to change their destiny. They have more resources than their parents such as, phones and Internet access which in turn has the ability to encourage these young activists. The support of the United States with pressure on certain governments or helping individual activists has given strength to women activists because they know that the international community is not abandoning them, which in turn gives them courage to keep going.
This event was eye-opening and showed me how there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that women have equal rights throughout the world. I think this was a great talk and the video of the discussion is on their website and I highly recommend checking it out.