Reflections on Breaking Barriers Faced by Women

Manpreet Kaur
As a seventeen-year-old Punjabi woman growing up in America, I witness obstacles that women face on a daily basis. We've come a long way in terms of social, political, and economic progress over the past centuries, but still face challenges. Women's History Month is significant to me because it acknowledges and commemorates the efforts and accomplishments of women who have battled for social justice, women's rights, and gender equality.

As a seventeen-year-old Punjabi woman growing up in America, I witness obstacles that women face on a daily basis. We've come a long way in terms of social, political, and economic progress over the past centuries, but still face challenges. Women's History Month is significant to me because it acknowledges and commemorates the efforts and accomplishments of women who have battled for social justice, women's rights, and gender equality. Additionally, it encourages and empowers future generations of us to keep pursuing gender equality. Women's History Month serves as a potent reminder of the value of inclusivity and diversity as well as the part that women have had in influencing our political, cultural, and social systems.  Here are my reflections on some of the biggest challenges that women and girls face today and how we can make a difference for the next generation.

One of the biggest challenges that women face today is the gender pay gap. Even in countries where laws mandate equal pay for equal work, women still earn less than men in many industries. This gap is often wider for women of color and those with disabilities. Women are less likely to be promoted to leadership positions, which further exacerbates the wage gap. Governments and organizations need to implement policies that ensure equal pay and promote women’s leadership in the workplace. A close friend of mine once shared her experience of being underpaid and passed over for promotions simply because of her gender, despite having equal qualifications and experience as her male colleagues. Skills, qualification and hard work should determine how much one should earn, not gender.

Violence against women is another significant challenge. Women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, and it often goes unreported. This is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach, including raising awareness, providing support for survivors, and holding perpetrators accountable. A friend shared her experience of being a survivor of sexual assault and how difficult it was to find support and hold her perpetrator accountable.I come from a culture that once something affects your reputation, it can be seen as a stain that can never be washed away. Consequently, women may choose to remain silent about their experiences to avoid further humiliation or questioning of their reputation. This silence perpetuates the cycle of violence and enables perpetrators to continue their behavior with impunity. However, it is crucial for women to speak up and not remain quiet about their experiences. Silence only perpetuates the problem and allows perpetrators to continue their actions. Instead, women must be encouraged to seek support, report the crime, and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. This may involve speaking out publicly, seeking legal assistance, or accessing mental health support. Families, medical providers, law enforcement, and communities must break the culture of silence and provide support and encouragement to survivors. Instead of being ashamed of their loved ones, families should be proud of their strength and resilience in overcoming such traumatic experiences. Moreover, communities should work towards creating a safe environment where survivors can access the support they need without fear of judgment or stigma.

Another challenge facing women is the lack of representation in government and public office. Although women’s representation in politics has improved in some countries, women are still underrepresented at all levels of government. This means that women’s voices are not being heard in policy-making and decision-making processes, which can perpetuate gender inequality. To address this issue, we need to encourage and support more women to run for office and hold public positions. Moreover, the lack of representation of women in government and public office is another issue that I have seen manifest in the lives of those I know. Women’s voices are often ignored or silenced in political discourse, and their issues are not adequately addressed in policy-making. It is essential to have more women in leadership positions to ensure that women’s perspectives are represented and their needs are met. Women should be represented; women should be heard.

Women face a number of challenges when it comes to accessing and receiving quality healthcare. The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade gave states the power to ban or severely restrict access to abortion. This means that women in some states may find it more difficult or impossible to access abortion services, which could lead to unsafe and illegal procedures, or even unwanted pregnancies and childbirth. Another major challenge is the historical and ongoing gender bias in medical research, which has led to a lack of understanding and recognition of women's health issues, symptoms, and treatments. This can lead to misdiagnosis, inadequate treatment, and increased health risks for women. Many women face barriers to accessing healthcare, including cost, lack of insurance, transportation issues, and societal stigmas around seeking healthcare services. Women also often face unique health challenges, such as reproductive health issues, pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, and breast and gynecological cancers, which require specialized care and attention. Addressing these challenges requires increased attention and investment in women's health research, improved access to healthcare services, and efforts to overcome gender biases in the medical field. It is concerning to think that the lives of my loved ones could be in danger due to a lack of access to healthcare services. As for my personal desire to become pregnant and start a family, I want to ensure that I have access to the care and security that I need during this time. It is crucial for women to receive proper reproductive healthcare. 

Lastly, achieving a balance between work and personal life is a challenge for many women. Growing up, I have always witnessed women holding so many responsibilities at once. Women are traditionally expected to take on the primary caregiver role for their families, which can make it difficult to pursue a career or maintain a demanding job. Women who have children often have to make tough choices about whether to prioritize their career or their family, which can lead to feelings of guilt or dissatisfaction with their choices, as many workplaces do not offer flexible schedules or parental leave. Women who are single mothers face even greater challenges in achieving work-life balance. They may have to work multiple jobs or long hours to provide for their families, leaving little time for personal pursuits or quality time with their children.

To make a difference for the next generation, we must take a proactive approach to addressing these issues.  Education not only empowers women but also plays a vital role in creating a society that values and respects women. Providing access to quality education for girls and women is the first step towards achieving gender equality. It not only improves their lives but also benefits their families and communities. Moreover, educating young people about the harmful effects of gender-based violence and discrimination can help prevent such incidents in the future. Children should be taught about respect, consent, and healthy relationships from a young age so that they can grow up with an understanding of what constitutes acceptable behavior and what does not. Such education can help create a culture where gender-based violence and discrimination are no longer tolerated. Also women leadership can have a significant impact on breaking down gender barriers and promoting gender equality. It not only serves as an inspiration for young girls and women but also challenges traditional gender roles that have limited women's access to leadership positions. Finally, we must hold individuals and institutions accountable for their actions. This means challenging sexism and discrimination in all its forms and holding perpetrators of violence against women accountable for their actions. Governments and organizations need to enforce policies that promote gender equality and penalize discrimination and violence against women. While women have made significant strides towards equality, there is still much work to be done. The challenges facing women today are complex and multifaceted, requiring a comprehensive approach to address them. By educating young people, promoting women’s leadership, and holding individuals and institutions accountable, we can create a more equal world for women and the next generation.

Manpreet Kaur (pronouns she/her) is a 17-year-old senior in high school. Her involvement has been with selfsea as a Youth Ambassador, where she is involved with cooperating with other folks and engaging with the app. She is also a Youth Advocate for Community Youth Advocacy where she works on addressing issues related to Domestic Violence. She works with Peer Health Exchange on issues surrounding Mental Health Issues and  betterment for the youth. She enjoys dancing, writing, and fitness in her spare time.