I am from Colombia, a place where any special date will be taken as an opportunity to meet and celebrate. Since my childhood, there was a family meeting to celebrate the annual Women’s Day, usually at my grandma’s house. My dad would prepare everything for a good Colombian BBQ: first the music and then the meat, plantains, potatoes and corn in every possible delicious form. We, girls and women of my family, knew it was the day to do nothing but wait to be spoiled. My grandma and mom were the queens of the day. I would make my mom’s breakfast and buy her favorite flowers (something I still do and – I am sure – my mom waits for).
Now, after living in a different country and having met people from all over the world, I am aware that the importance of this day lies in the cultural and sociopolitical context in which we have been raised. When I talked to some German friends, they told me that although they don’t celebrate it here, they usually gather for national Mother’s Day.
Multiple Cultures and a shared Goal
In recent years, I have been more interested of what Women’s Day means beyond the celebration. Women fighting for their rights has been present in different parts of the world and has reached different goals. Even today, not all women have the same access to education like men do.
Women stand up for their rights every day. My journey towards equality already started at my grandma’s generation, when women in Colombia got the right to vote in 1954. Since then we continue fighting for equality, for the rights we have now: The right to make a choice about our future and decide what we want to do with our personal and professional lives.
My grandma has taught me about the importance of being independent. She never got tired of reminding me that I can do anything I want and that I need to be valued for who I am. This made me understand the importance of Women’s Day. She never told me about women’s history or about inequalities between women and men. Instead, she just kept telling me “You can do anything”! I think empowerment between women is very encouraging. It strengthens our unity. Therefore, my mom and I carry that message.
No more gender roles
I work in civil engineering, a field that is male “dominated”. Already at university this could be easily noticed, but also at work. Most positions are still held by men. Even in 2021, I still get to know people who are impressed whenever I say that I am an engineer. And I feel like it is mostly because of my gender. I don’t think the reaction comes with bad intention but situations like this make me think that we still have a long way to overcome the defined gender roles. In the end, everyone should be doing the job they are passionate about. Not matter one’s gender. Anything else is just a social idea that must change.
What I can say is that I have never felt uncomfortable or out of place in this industry. Probably because I was never discouraged in my work environment. Nobody has ever told me “Hey, that’s a man’s job”. On the contrary – I was always encouraged to improve and go my own way. I am very glad about that!
Sharing ideas at the National conference about rivers and wetlands, Colombia
We can do it!
In 2021 one can see that things are developing. Women are changing industries and businesses. We are becoming the faces of multiple fields around the world. This evolution will transcend the next generations. Seeing women working as engineers, astronauts, physicists, football players (with the same wage as men), doing weightlifting, working in construction or being a president is what will motivate the next generations to say, “I can do it!”.
In recent years, I have met great women at university, while traveling and at the office. Seeing powerful women gives me the motivation to be stronger and to keep going my way. The International Women’s Day is a great annual reminder to move towards equality. We should keep on thinking about how we can participate in this journey. Making a difference every day and supporting each other. Women’s Day is not simply celebrating one day! It is a day to recognize the steps that still need to be taken. In the end, every day should be a day of equality.
Let’s not waste time on thinking about what we cannot do and let’s just go for it! As Reshma Saujani said, founder of Girls Who Code, “We must teach girls bravery, not perfection!”.