Most of us have heard the statistic that for every dollar a man earns, a woman earns only $0.80. And while this statistic is valid, it actually only applies to a few women: white women in the United States.
The fact is, in our country and around the world, women continue to battle for equality. And while society has made strides toward promoting female equality at home and globally, many hurdles remain.
Civilizations in some areas of the world still routinely subject women to discrimination based on religious ideology. Even in the United States, women's rights to access birth control and abortion remain very much under attack. While much remains to do, we can all do our small part to promote and lift up women both at home and around the globe.
1. Use Your Voice and Your Privilege
All of us can speak up and speak out for women's equality. But the more privilege you have, the more leverage you have to speak out not just for yourself, but for all women.
Many critics of modern feminism state suburban white women have primarily spearheaded the effort. As a result, the needs of women of color often get neglected. While it is true, for example, that a white woman may earn $0.80 for every dollar a man earns in the U.S., for African-American women, that number drops to $0.63. Latina women earn only $0.54 for every dollar a man makes.
And income inequality isn't the only issue facing women of color. Many of these women have more difficulty accessing essential services, such as birth control and abortion, than do suburban white women. If we truly want to work for equality, we need to include all of our sisterhood into the equation. So if you have the privilege, speak up and speak out — but make sure you do so for all women.
2. Educate Others
Few things make more of an impact on women than education. Sadly, today, in many areas, comprehensive sexual education doesn't exist. Also, women's history often goes ignored in standard courses, and few civics classes include a discussion of women's rights.
Therefore, make it your mission to educate as many young women as possible. If you have medical training, share your knowledge about their birth control options. If you have legal training, teach young women about their rights and about the history of those rights.
Even if you don't have any formal secondary education, election season is a perfect time to teach young women the importance of their vote and the history of what women had to go through to secure that fundamental right.
3. Send a Care Package of Menstrual Hygiene Products
One of the most significant issues facing women in developing countries is the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products. Sadly, this problem also exists among the U.S. homeless population.
To help women close to home, make up baggies for the homeless, including some money, basic food items, socks and, importantly, menstrual hygiene products. To help women globally, contribute to organizations that provide menstrual hygiene and education programs regarding their use to refugee women.
4. Support Female-Centered Organizations
There are a host of nonprofit organizations whose missions are to help women at home and abroad. Many organizations work to combat human rights abuses of women such as clitoral mutilation, a practice that sadly remains common even in some nations where it is legally banned.
Looking to help women closer to home? Have some outgrown but quality clothing in your closet? Consider supporting organizations such as Dress for Success, an organization dedicated to providing proper job interview clothing for low-income job seekers.
5. Help out a New Mom
One simple way to lift up at least one special woman in your life is to help out a new mom. Having a baby is one of life's most joyous, yet also most stressful, events. And in the U.S., many women find themselves rushing to return to work soon after giving birth, despite the heavy demands of a new infant. And these formative years are critical for helping the new baby develop healthy socialization skills, as well as emotional balance.
So if you have a friend who is a new mom, ask what you can do to help. She may not request babysitting or doing diaper duty — it might be something as straightforward as making a grocery run the new mom has no time to do. A helping hand can make a world of difference to a new mom and her baby.
Throughout the ages, women have faced religious and political barriers to equality. But by working together, we can lift women up and work toward a world that values and respects everyone equally. Do your part to use whatever privilege you may have to help the other women in your life and beyond.