Engagement, we have it more or less, some definitely more than others. The belief in gender equality and women's rights made Lourdes Daza-Gillman to work for these rights from early age, and she has achieved a lot. This is a story most interesting and also inspiring, and who cannot agree to that women and men should have the same rights? It should be the normal, but still there is a lot of work to do, and we are all part of it in the way we are acting.
Name: Lourdes Daza-Gillman
Occupation: Author. Former engineer, politician and art artist
Family: Two children and three grandchildren
Lives in: Stockholm, Sweden
All your life you have been engaged in gender equality and it began already when you grew up in Bolivia, then continued when you lived in England and Sweden, the latter your home country since many years. From where did your engagement come?
My engagement in gender equality has always been present in my mind and has always influenced my actions. It was ingrained in me by my very first mentor from school, and so even my education was characterized by those ethics. The central message of my mentors, all of them male, was the importance of being independent, being respected for who I am, and never accept being treated as a second-class citizen.
This has influenced my entire life and I have lived according to these norms and lessons to ensure that I'm being treated correctly and equally. Gender equality is for me something obvious and I wish it was so for everyone.
Growing up in a country where women were treated as second-class citizens awoke these thoughts in me, and in the early 1970's, when I lived in London, my interest in understanding the underlying causes of women's vulnerability intensified. This is when I saw that even in western countries, inequality was an apparent reality.
I began to inform myself about what women's situation looked like around the world, and it was then I first put these thoughts down on paper, in a thesis about women's lives and injustices.
With all your experience, what would you say are the similarities and the differences between these three countries?
Sweden is a country where women and men - according to given laws - are supposed to be equal. The problem is that law and societal norms are not always the same. Here, as in the rest of the world, women are sometimes treated as a second-class citizen - lower salaries, domestic violence and so on. So, gender inequality prevails even in Sweden.
You even were part of starting a political party in Sweden: Feminist Initiative. Did you feel that you could change things to the better when being active in politics?
Yes, definitely. Not in the short term, but after the huge work we did together, we can see the results of initiating a feminist political party. We forced the feminist agenda to be in the forefront of discussion, not only by us, but by all other parties.
Sweden is now internationally known as being a feminist country, even though I can't say that Sweden has achieved feminism in the real sense. But hopefully we are on the way...
As I mentioned before, here, in spite of the given laws, women are still suffering domestic violence, and non-equal pay for equal work prevails.
Now you are writing a trilogy about women's exposure and exploitation to raise awareness. In what way do you hope your books change things?
Power Trilogy is a dark crime trilogy about abuse of power, rape and sex slavery. These topics are unfortunately an ever-present reality for many women among us, and I hope that the trilogy can raise awareness of what is happening in our time.
As part of the research for these books I have read court decisions and preliminary investigation material about rape, domestic violence and trafficking. These facts are now with me, and they cannot be put aside or ignored.
I want my readers to understand more about what's happening all around us, in all levels of society. A society that is more aware will also be more resilient and supportive of its victims.
A final question: What can we women do to contribute to more equality?
Good question. However it is impossible to give a straightforward answer. We are all individuals with different expectations, different values and different ways of going through life. Therefore it would be a huge difference in what every women and man could do to contribute to gender equality.
Nevertheless, a simple answer would be that one has to start with oneself. Don't expect others to fix it for you. You may start asking yourself: How do you live your life and how do you educate your children - both girls and boys? Is it important to you to be treated with respect? How do you treat others? Remember that there is always the other side of the coin. Whatever you do is reflected on your environment.
"'Who you are inside will eventually be reflected on the outside..."
Finally, I would like to say:
Never allow anybody to treat you as second-class citizen, but at the same time, treat others with respect - you can't expect to be treated well if you don't act in the same manner with others.
Teach your children and grandchildren - both boys and
girls - the importance of giving and receiving respect, about gender equality
and human rights, independently of ethnicity, social level, sexual orientation
and gender identity. Awareness of these issues are crucial for a better future,
for future generations.
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