“I think it’s great if women want to stay home. But it should be a choice, not something we do because we think we have no choice.”
Melinda Gates is well known as the wife of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, not only that, she is also a philanthropist, businesswoman, and global advocate for women and girls. Reading her book, The Moment of Lift has really increases my awareness and reflects on what many women have been suffering from. And here is why?
Family Planning, Maternal, and New born
Melinda believes that all women need access to contraceptive. According to her, this is just the beginning, while other approaches such as getting girls to school or letting women to work/have businesses would be essential to lift the women up. She writes “It took us years to learn that contraceptives are the greatest life-saving, poverty ending, women-empowering innovation ever created.”
From this section of the book we can learn that many women suffer due to the lack of health care professional and also cultural practices. During her visit in a health care centre in Malawi, she met women who lined up waiting to get contraceptive injection, they would walk ten miles to the health clinic not knowing if the shot would be in stock when they got there, so the clinic will offer them other methods of contraceptives, such as condom. But condoms are often looked down upon as it’s seen as a sign of unfaithfulness of the husband or vice versa, the husbands often beat them up. And in fact, they clinic did not have the shot. An unplanned pregnancy can be devastating for women who can’t afford to feed the children, and who are too old or young.
Melinda shares her stories from travelling and talking about family planning laid more violence women face: female genital mutilation, child marriage, domestic violence, rape, unpaid labor and sex work. Her stories of meeting these women are heart breaking but necessary to read.
Family planning helps women and society, but unless the children get an education, they will also end up like their parents. Being able to control the size of the family is good, but if they are still poor, their children will have the same life unless they get education. Girl’s education effects can be transformative on health, empowerment, economic advancement of women. Women who have higher education tend to delay the age of a marriage, have fewer children, and have better access to contraceptive, it results in contributing to stabilization of population.
In India and Africa for example, girls are forced into marriage at such a young age, as young as 8, 10, or 11. It’s such a big issue where young girls are even tricked into being married. “Why would you trick a girl unless you knew you were breaking her heart?”, Melinda wrote. After the marriage, the girls have to leave their village and reside with their new husbands and take on their lifelong household duties. This makes their lives difficult. In India, where some of the bride’s families have to pay dowries (even though it’s illegal), the younger the girl, the less educated, the lower dowry her family pays, the more appealing she is to the family who receives her. They don’t want a girl with skills or power, they want an obedient servant. And if the dowry of the bride’s family is not enough, the husband’s family often abuses her. Child marriage really does damage to the girls, families, and communities. In Indonesia, parents often get girls married earlier because girls are seen to be second class, they don’t need high education because their husband will provide for them.
Unpaid works mean work that is performed in the home like cooking, children care, cleaning, shopping, and other works done by family member who is not being paid. In the poorer countries, this is the reality of millions of women. On average, women spend more than twice than men to do unpaid works. It is paid work that will elevates women toward equality with men, give them independence, and power. Women are natural caregivers, so are men. If women take the work exclusively, men’s abilities in those areas are never developed. When men developed their nurturing abilities, it helps them to build a strong bond with their children.
Reading Melinda’s book left me speechless countless times. Even though I don’t experience what many girls and women have been suffering, as an Indonesian woman, I still feel the huge gender gap as Indonesian society is still highly patriarchal. In the US it still takes 257 years to gain gender equality. The Moment of Lift is full of tragedies and heartbreaking stories. Those girls and women have no choice for their lives, but reading it makes me reflect and grateful for the access to education that I get, therefore I decided that I want to speak up about women’s empowerment in whatever way that I can, so can you! If you are reading this article, you have the privilege of literacy, internet access, devices and you can share this message with the world, this is our duty to women and humanity!
Resource Guide of Organizations that Readers can Support:
Source: The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates