‘Glimpses into the Spirit of Gender Equality’: a personal reflection on a new film
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Written by Carmel Kalani
“’It can’t ‘be as it was’. People have changed. The times have changed. There is no going back anymore.”
Power. In whose hands does it lie?
Change. Who is responsible for enforcing it?
Equality. At what point is it afforded?
Watching the premiere of the Bahá’í International Community’s film ‘Glimpses into the Spirit of Gender Equality’ was at once profound, inspiring and sobering. The film opened with a quote extolling the assertion that human dignity and nobility is neither male or female:
Throughout the 40-minute film, glimpses from Malaysia, India, Zambia, USA and Colombia feature the diversity of ways that the principle of the equality of women and men is being expressed in different contexts. The film follows the advancement towards gender equality that is being made globally and brings us to the present day.
After watching the premiere of the film, I was reminded again of the new conversations that must unfold in all the spaces we find ourselves in, if we truly wish to translate the principle of equality into reality. The responsibility to do this falls on all of us. If we want to see a world in which material, human, social, and spiritual prosperity can be enjoyed by all, then we must realise the power we have today, in this moment, to learn where we have come from, and how far we must go.
When gender equality is at the forefront of our minds, we are better able to find different ways of advancing it from the grassroots, the national and the international stage. It takes courage to liberate ourselves, our families and our communities from traditions and norms that perpetuate the man-made material measures that divide us. It also takes an all-embracing view of societal transformation, as the film highlights the interdependence of gender equality and education, health, social cohesion, social structures, family life, work life, cultural, traditional and religious practices, and peace-building.
Advancing the rights, well-being and opportunities afforded to women and the girl-child serves to drive greater prosperity and human-flourishing for the whole of humanity. To see the end result- “to be a civilization of the future we need both qualities that men and women have to bring”- at the beginning of the process, has profound implications for the tools we are giving young people to be at the forefront of building a better world.
“Women have equal rights with men upon earth; in religion and society they are a very important element. As long as women are prevented from attaining their highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to achieve the greatness which might be theirs.” (Paris Talks: Addresses given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Paris in 1911-1912)
“What does a spiritual perspective allow us to consider?”
‘Glimpses’ focuses on a number of different stories. One that touched me in particular was that of a Colombian teacher. In her interview, she highlighted that many of the constraints in our communities and cultures come about because individuals are not prepared to make decisions that are fair, equitable and kind- despite having the intellectual knowledge that this is right. She articulates that the spirit that motivates us to make decisions according to these moral values must be strengthened, if we are to achieve our full potential- individually and collectively. Establishing gender equality is part of this potential.
In the USA, the young artist interviewed asserted that the concept of divine or spiritual doesn’t exist within the framework of gender; the soul is genderless and surpasses the limitations of this material world. She established that we are all of equal moral worth and all contributions are imperative to humanity’s development.
These examples, alongside many of the others shared in the film, spoke to me about the potential of women being equal to that of their male counterparts and, if this potential is recognised, the many advancements we could make for humankind.
In order to do this, however, we must learn. We must operate in a mode of learning. Without learning, we will continue to perpetuate and endorse antiquated standards for women and men, we will continue to suppress the potential of both women and men, we will continue to have inequality in education, family life, economics, politics, the workplace, and the home.
With a multitude of spiritual problems that find their expression in material systems and structures of all societies, education provides a rich opportunity to build a civilization that has both material and spiritual qualities. Just like a lamp without the light within it, the lamp cannot realise its true purpose, and the surrounding remains in darkness. So, let’s embrace, question, learn. The spirit of gender equality is channelled by us all.