By Benson Saulo, Financial Inclusion Action Plan Advisor at Good Shepherd Microfinance
I will start this piece with a disclaimer, mostly for my mother; sorry but I don’t have any children on the way. In fact, the thought of having children both thrills and terrifies me. But nevertheless, in my heart of hearts, I am excited to one day have a daughter.
And I am working with urgency to prepare for her arrival.
She isn’t even a twinkle in my eye and she has already turned my world up-side-down. I have had countless sleepless nights and I often feel the over-protective side of my carefree character beginning to rise.
I’m not worried about my ability to be a loving father or provide a nurturing environment for her development. My concern stems from the kind of world she will ultimately inherit.
If you have opened any national newspaper in the past 12 months, you will see that our society is facing many challenges: wars on foreign soils, impacts of climate change, and the greatest displacement of people due to conflict in history. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, helpless and even hopeless, when bombarded with heart wrenching images and stories almost daily. But these extraordinary challenges of our times are not the cause of my sleepless nights.
I lay awake at night because there is a part of me that knows I will feel utterly powerless each and every time my daughter is not in my arms. I know that regardless of her age, her abilities or her aspirations, one of the single greatest determinants for her success in life will ultimately be her gender.
Lately, preparing for my daughter’s arrival hasn’t been easy. In fact, there has been fleeting moments that I have second guessed even having children. You don’t have to look very far to see that girls and young women in Australia are consistently overrepresented in matters relating to financial hardships, and victims of domestic violence, as well as inequality in the workplace.
For the sake of my future daughter, it must be said – and yes, I am fully aware that I am not the first person to say this – today as a society, we do not truly value the lives of girls and women.
How else can we explain that from the age of 15 years one out of three women have experienced violence. Or that on average, women earn 13% less income than men in comparative employment, which combined with unpaid carers leave, under or un-employment it contributes to women retiring with up to 50 percent less superannuation then men. If we truly valued the lives of our girls and women, the fact that for every week in 2015 there has been a women killed by a partner or ex-partner would have resulted in a systems overhaul across government, community organisations and the private sector.
Still the truth remains, I am excited to have a daughter and I am working urgently to prepare for her arrival but I am not alone.
Last year, I sat with 20 other young people listening to former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh share her insights on leadership. She said something that gave me hope. She explained that right now is such an exciting time for female leaders in Australia. In the past, the powerful attributes that women bring to leadership roles were dismissed as weak, emotional or bossy, but as society shifts so does its people and their beliefs. To be a leader that is comfortable in vulnerability, driven by passion and determined to achieve great impact, is the type of leader we should all strive for, elect and follow. It is an exciting time in Australia, Anna continued, because there isn’t a roadmap for female leadership. Girls and women have the incredible opportunity to construct this path.
There is still much that needs to shift in society to better enable the environment for these paths to be constructed in our communities, institutions and society. And this is where much of my preparation for fatherhood is being focused. To prepare the world for my daughter tomorrow, we need to focus on how we are raising our children today.
My great hope for my daughter is that she will have the ability to define her own success and define her own voice. As she grows, I know the phrase ‘like a girl’ which is heard in school yards across the country actually means that my daughter is smart, confident and bold. I want to be able to tell my daughter, she can be anything she wants to be, and to truly believe it.
I am excited to have a daughter because I know that the world that she will inherit, will be profoundly different to the realities of today. We all play a role in preparing for her arrival. Because ultimately, she is all of our daughters, our sisters and our mothers.