Ironically, I started writing this column on August 26 -- Women's Equality Day. As much as I want to celebrate equality, many women have to struggle for this each day. The iconic line from Cyndi Lauper's song 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' has now turned into 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun(damental) Human Rights' because every woman wants to be treated equally.
As of 2014, 143 out of 195 countries legally guarantee equality between men and women. I wish I could say that gender equality, or any equality, enforced by the law translates into equality in the minds of people. Deeply rooted problems preventing true parity have been promoted by patriarchy for years, passed on from one generation to another disguised as 'tradition.'
In my country, Russia, it is almost accepted to hate feminism and to portray feminists as women who loathe men and will end up lonely with forty cats. Russia is not alone in its patriarchal culture, with its dangerous consequences. In Pakistan, a woman who supported women's empowerment was murdered. In Nigeria, Boko Haram militants raped hundreds of women. Sadly, cases like these occur around the world despite laws that guarantee equality.
Laws to protect women may not be effective, at least not immediately. Why is this the case? The answer is obvious yet ambiguous: it's about an evolution in mentality. A transformational change starts by educating people and changing long accepted values, and we must be diligent in creating sustainable solutions on how to implement equality for women worldwide.
Many people exist, both men and women, who strive for equality of the sexes. Websites celebrate the success of women innovators, both past and present. Saudi Arabia, which once organized a conference on women rights with only men, now allows women to vote. The world is evolving, but change takes time.
However, I believe our generation can speed up the educational process and empower young women NOW. Changing long-ingrained patterns of thought is hard, rigorous and consuming work, but not impossible.
Even though my country officially guarantees equality for women, single mothers struggle to raise children. How can they empower the next generation if no one empowers them? I want to empower single mothers in Russia by helping them start their own businesses. As my post-summit project for G(irls)20, I want to make that happen through starting an online platform where ten single mothers will be selected to share stories of finding jobs and sharing their personal experiences throughout their daily routines. The idea is to eradicate the concept of single mothers who as helpless individuals. The aim is for all ten of these single mothers who participate in the project to start earning the national minimum wage in Russia, and to enjoy the work they do, providing for their families. I believe that my participation in G(irls)20 helped me refine these ideas and bring them to fruition. Their commitment to advancing the cause of women is what drew me to G(irls)20 -- a unique global platform focused on making global change happen now.
By Ekaterina Kuznetsova, delegate representing the Russia at the G(irls)20 Summit 2015 in Istanbul, Turkey.