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Cheryl Saban Ph.D.

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It Starts with You

Posted: 08/08/08 01:21 PM ET

Do you wake up every day feeling sure of yourself? Though you may have confusion about which daily task you're going to tackle when you rise, is your sense of validity, self-worth, and right to an equitable existence in question too? God, I hope not. But the truth is, even when a strong sense of self-worth has been embraced, millions of women and girls around the world have a difficult time manifesting their worth. Consider the women who at this moment are trying to cope with the inequities and disasters of life in developing countries.

And what about the women and girls who suffer from depression, eating disorders and other mental disorders? You can bet that a woman suffering from Post Partum depression is having a hard time figuring out her own sense of worth. One doesn't need to look to Sub-Saharan Africa to see that women face desperate problems. You've read the statistics -- millions face hunger and the hopelessness of poverty every day. But look closer to home and you'll see that women, much more so than men, also face financial inequalities, difficulties managing careers and children, gender violence and sexual abuse. How do these challenges affect a woman's sense of self? How can these woman feel empowered, emboldened, free and efficacious?

The questions about a woman's worth loom large. When it comes right down to it, is a male-female hierarchy creating an imbalance in the allocation of resources for women? Is the persistent mindset that males are stronger and more authoritative translating to the belief that males are also more capable? Are women bombarded with societal messages that would reduce us to mere objects? How do you suppose the teen-aged girls of today think about themselves? Are we, by virtue of our genetics, instinctually guided to be the nurturers rather than the leaders? There is no doubt women the world over face existential challenges that impinge on their ability to express and own their self-worth.

What can we do about it? The awareness that society is out of balance is an obvious starting point. Add to that a willingness to advocate for change, and we'll begin to put in motion a global mindset that promotes and celebrates women, rather than holds them in a perpetual limbo between old traditions and progress. Nobody said it would be easy. Women have been working on this problem for centuries. It'll take a concerted and organized effort to finally put an end to a long history of dysfunctional behaviors that stratify and oppress women. But the effort will pay off. Though it's clear we've generally been defined by a male-dominated zeitgeist for much of history, the truth about our worth will prevail.

How can we make sure our children advance to an age where women feel free to use their unique voices, and gain the opportunity to play an equal role in making the choices that guide civilization? Quite simply, by being proactive. Maximize the wisdom of our collective experience to energize and illuminate those suppressed and obscured facets of our individual identities - our essence; the worth that is there whether the light is on or not. We can do this by supporting women's funds, women's education, and women's empowerment programs.

As Ghandi so famously said, "Be the change you seek." You and I need to model a new mindset to our progeny, and take responsibility for passing the torch. Our daughters and fellow females need to understand that they are worthwhile and valuable because of who and what they are inside. And our sons need to get this message too. It all starts with you. Recover and reveal your own worth. Take your power seat at the round table. Be an equal, vocal part of the world's dialog so that perhaps we can finally persuade our society to grow up.

 

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