By Brenna Carse, Junior, Upper St. Clair High School
Throughout the course of the One Young World Summit, one name has been on every delegate, counselor, and journalist’s mind – Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was recently shot by Taliban gunman for speaking out about women’s rights in the Islamic world. Because of her youth and activism, she seems to have become a symbol for the One Young World delegates. Her name was mentioned during the opening ceremonies, morning plenary sessions, and among delegates talking about education in the developing world. Education – rated the most important global topic by the 2011 One Young World delegates – is a very popular topic at the conference, but Malala’s situation has sparked a global interest in women’s rights. The delegates have recently been talking about the implications her story will have on the world and how women will be represented and respected in the 21st century.
Tshepiso Ramotsehoa, a One Young World delegate from South Africa, believes that Malala’s story boils down to an issue of humanity. The fact that a 14 year old girl can get shot for speaking about her basic right to an education has shocked many delegates, Ramotsehoa included. She stated that there needs to be a definitive call to action for young people – around the world, everyone should learn about women’s rights from Malala’s experience. Additionally, Ramotsehoa told of the challenge women endure when pursuing an education in South Africa. When a South African woman bears a child, her friends and family generally prefer if she gives birth to a son, not a daughter. So when a girl grows up in South Africa, a misogynistic preference is evident in her education, with young boys being given a higher priority in school than young girls. Clearly, a woman’s right to an education is not only a problem in Pakistan.
Besides South Africa, there is a strong concern for women’s rights in Australia. Rachel Bui, a delegate from down under, thinks that Australian women should have a strong female leader in Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister. However, Gillard’s fellow members of Parliament and Australian citizens do not always give her the respect she deserves, and some even treat her as unequal. For example, when Gillard’s father passed away in September 2012, Australian broadcaster Alan Jones said, “The old man [Gillard’s father] recently died a few weeks ago of shame. To think that he had a daughter who told lies every time she stood for parliament.” Additionally, two members of Parliament, Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Mirabella, have attended a political rally that displayed signs saying “Ditch the Witch” in reference to Gillard. Disgusted by this treatment , Gillard recently gave an impassioned speech during a session of parliament. She accused Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition in Australian Parliament, of being sexist, misogynistic, and subjecting her to unfair treatment in their government. Since then, the video of the speech has gone viral on the Internet and sparked international support for Gillard’s cause. However, Rachel Bui believes that the video shows how women in Australia are treated unfairly and are not treated as a man’s equal when they hold positions of power in government or in business. She wishes that this standard did not exist, as it hinders the growth and development of her country.
Although issues in South Africa and Australia may seem very far-reaching, delegates believe that the problems also exist within the United States. Ellie Johnston and Shirley Torho, both U.S. delegates, were reminded of the gender-wage gap in the U.S. when hearing stories from other delegates. According to The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women in the U.S. make roughly 77.8 cents to every dollar earned by men. The two American delegates also felt frustrated when U.S. law-makers were hesitant to pass legislation to bridge this gap, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, because of political affiliations or party lines.
When asked about which women’s rights issues should be addressed at the One Young World Summit, all four women agreed that the issue of women in the workplace needs to be discussed. Even though these four delegates come from different corners of the world, they all recognize that business is still largely run by men. Some women may hold high positions of power in large businesses, but there seems to be a glass ceiling for many aspiring that doesn’t exist for men. The higher up one goes in business, the fewer women there appear to be.
Fittingly, One Young World is hosting a special session tonight called “Women Up,” which will be hosted by Fatima Bhutto, international author and journalist; Carole Stone, managing director of YouGovStone; Natalia Vodianova, Russian model and philanthropist; Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children; and Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva.org and ProFounder. The panel will address issues surrounding women’s rights in the 21st century and the power of women in the workplace. Given that fair treatment of women is an issue that many delegates clearly feel passionately about, they will address the problem at this panel in order to ensure that the future leaders of our world give women the fair treatment they deserve. With help from the One Young World delegates, women in the future will no longer be treated as second class citizens. They will simply be treated as what they are – people.