Last Thursday marked the 45th anniversary of the reunification of Vietnam. The day the “American war” officially ended. Evacuations from Saigon continued for some time after 30th April 1975, but Reunification Day is the day that residents here hoist up their flags and commemorate the end of one era, and the beginning of another.
I remember talking to a friend a few year’s back, she was born in Saigon, and her family fled later in the ’70s, bound for Melbourne, Australia. She recalls the memory of being in a boat, aged 5, and can picture still the anguish plastered across her parents’ brows, and their clipped, firm instructions to her.
The plight of a family on the run isn’t something anyone would choose to put themselves through.
Just as no parent would want their loved ones to be victims of war over peace, violent conflict over dialogue.
And, yet, war and conflict riddle our generation, as they have every other one before us, and peace and dialogue so often resolve far less than seems possible.
‘Change’ in our society, as required by the human condition, thrives off of a combination of war and peace, reinforced and shaped, as these forces are, by various forms of dialogue and iterations of conflict.
There is a predictability around the cycles of these dynamics and conditions, and humans seem stuck in the cadence and inevitability of the ebb and flow of these things.
But we needn’t be stuck, dear reader.
I put it to you that we’ve gathered plenty of recent and favourable lessons about how to tackle societal issues (including addressing conflict and war) and one thing is certain: we don’t have enough women in charge.
It’s not necessarily that a Head of State (there are currently 29 female Heads of State out of 195 countries) always single-handedly makes the key decisions. Nor every corporate CEO the same. It takes many voices and influences to ultimately persuade a country to go “to war” in the first place.
However, with power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes, and men simply don’t care enough about the impacts of their decisions, when compared to women.
Forgive the sweeping generalisations but, for too long – forever – men have sat smug and uncontested, their creativity and compassion rendered, more often than not, lethargic and complacent when compared, in the cold and searching light of day, to that of women.
The Mars vs. Venus analogies neatly document the critical differences between men and women. We have this data. Men don’t care as much as women do. They don’t care as much.
The alarm bells have been ringing loud and clear on this point for a long while now. But nothing changes.
Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison, Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckeberg, Rupert Murdoch, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Pope Francis. A plethora of male power brokers. Angela Merkel the one female counter-part over the last ten years whose influence is comparable.
More recently, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern has captured the attention of many. Because she cares. Because she is self-aware and because her ego, unlike the inflated zeppelins of her male peers, doesn’t take over how she makes decisions.
In the archives of these posts you will find attempts to describe CARE’s solutions to poverty and social injustice. The #1 proof of concept that CARE has? Put more women in charge. Put gender equality at the centre of all poverty programmes, of all campaigns to tackle social injustice. Done. It’s that simple.
Put more women in charge of balancing a low-income household budget and we know they will think more about healthcare and education, than they will about spending that budget on consumption. They will care more about the welfare of their children. There will be less violence and conflict.
Putting more women in charge of everything can only reap dividends for everyone in the longer term. The stock market, the military, the media, the respective governance structures of every country in the world, the political systems, which toxically cause pain and suffering for so many people. Hell, we’ve even the evidence now that investing more in girls’ education is one of the most important counters to the effects of climate change.
Women make up 51% of the world’s population and yet we are leaving seismic decision-making about the planet’s extractive industry, the planet’s nuclear capacities, the planet’s healthcare and financial systems, dis-proportionality to men. Who we know care less about issues of humanity and welfare than women do.
Patriarchal social norms, everywhere, dictate this status quo. Capitalism only worsens the effects of inequality, and of gender bias.
The world, we are told, is constantly changing. Covid-19 our latest gruesome illustration of this. And yet nothing has meaningfully changed in terms the gender inequality. It rages on.
The #MeToo movement, and the wave of awareness which followed about domestic violence, workplace harassment, and gender-based violence more generally, was long overdue.
But it didn’t stop the election of Donald Trump. It hasn’t resulted in root and branch changes to how some of the world’s most powerful nations staff their top tier of power holders. It hasn’t influenced the accepted norm, the world over, that men can use violence against women as a weapon.
In Vietnam, as this week’s commemorative anniversary of the end of a brutal and protracted war draws to a close, the government continues to flagrantly lead from the front in terms of the male-female ratios of its leaders. And they are not alone in doing that. It’s the same everywhere.
Everyday, unchallenged, predictable and disastrous decisions are made by men.
Put more women in charge of everything.