“When I was born, my mother bewailed my birth because I was not a son”

- Sanam Bukhari, Pakistan


Traditional cultural roles split men and women. Women, considered inferior, have been killed or abandoned at birth and denied privileges afforded their male siblings and peers.


“Traditionally, Chinese people feel sons can carry on their family heir and daughters will belong to the family heir they marry with. So, if they give birth to a daughter, the family heir will stop.”

- Yufei Gao, China

“Long time ago in [Laos], culture between women and men in relation to social and economic development was created clearly. Women were preferred to be at home taking care of all housework. … Men were always seen as strong and smart. Their main job was to earn money from working outside. Husbands were always the leader in the home and they made all decisions.”

- Viengphouthone Phomsengsavanh, Laos


A global shift toward gender equality has begun, but, as our essayists show, some countries and/or communities are slow to change.

“… I believe the old culture is still a practice in many houses. When I visit my friends and relatives, I observe that males still like to take advantage of having wives, moms, daughters or sisters (basically females) to do kinds of basic housework. I wonder if these women would ever feel tired of doing it when their family members could share some responsibilities.”

- Viengphouthone Phomsengsavanh, Laos


“… I was admitted to a school unlike my brother who went to a private school which was a privilege. When I entered high school, my father, with the advice of my mother, wrapped me in a burqa.  … My face was covered and my identity was taken from me. … My mother was not happy at all with my going to school. She argued, “You should stay at home, what use of going to school? You will soon get married and then serve your husband.” … After matriculation, I had to discontinue my education. I was held back at home where I felt a kind of housemaid, serving my parents, brothers and sisters. I had to comply with their orders and they were quite satisfied with my imprisoned life. … During this period, I was also forced to get engaged to a person whom I had not even seen before. … I was not made for this life and I was breaking inside. I thought I have to speak for myself. Who else will speak for me if I don’t?”

- Sanam Bukhari, Pakistan


“Naturally, women are as intelligent as men. They are humans which all humans are equal. There is no way women should be discriminated in work place and receive less working opportunities just because their sex and their nature to give birth to babies.”

- Yufei Gao, China


“Despite having proved their capability in different arenas today, including the ones which are traditionally known to be dominated by men, people have still not started taking [women] seriously. [We] need to eradicat[e] or at least modify traditional gender roles and stereotypes.”

“…  we … need to educate men that in today’s world, women are no less than men, and that daughters can prove themselves and sometimes even more capable then sons can.”

“ … I believe that men and women are not supposed to compete against each other, rather complement each other. It is important for them to understand that the existence of one without other is not only difficult, but impossible.”

- Astha Srivastava, India


It can happen, and it is happening.

“I am a boy and I’m ready to change!”

“… I started with few simple tasks like cleaning my room and bed, preparing dining table and washing my own glass after drinking. Slowly, I manage to wash my own school uniform, dry them up and iron. During weekends, I join my family to our farm watering our vegetables and trees. This means my time for TV, games and social media decreased but I am totally fine.”

“The past might have its own reasons but today regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, everyone should be weighted with same value, same rights, receive the same respects and opportunities. Let’s stop throwing unnecessary reasons to divide males and females and let’s become gentlemen rather than just men for the real sustainable development.”

- Viengphouthone Phomsengsavanh, Laos


Female empowerment starts with individuals speaking up for themselves and sharing knowledge and strength with their peers.

“I wanted to get rid of my betrothal and I succeeded in breaking it which was not an easy task. I had to bear so many nasty judgments of the people. I got admitted to a Postgraduate College where co-education has recently been introduced; where again the males try to keep us confined to our classrooms only, where there are no sports opportunities for female students; where the female students are expected to keep their eyes down in respect, honor and shyness to the males and where they are not encouraged to participate in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.”

“I have overcome the fear which had made me dimensionless. The fear is gone by now. I am me; I am someone; I want a due recognition. I want to convince in my favour such people who want to efface me from the social fabric and who feel ashamed of the existence of their daughters, sisters and mothers.”

- Sanam Bukhari, Pakistan


“LILY [knowledge and inner fortitude] hosted the High School Girls’ Night, a discussion-based event at which we invited female faculty members to share their own stories. These included campus violence, criticisms of Greek life, and gender-based bias both in academia and the work place. It was intriguing to learn about these subjects, not from a segment on the news or by skimming through a lengthy study, but from the words of respected teachers whom we speak to every day. What further contributed to the effectiveness of our event was the nature of the dialogues it sparked – the women of [the school] dissected in one evening a series of issues that are scarcely mentioned during the school day. For instance, the general consensus is that the reproduction unit of the freshman year Health course was sorely lacking; sexually transmitted diseases were only perfunctorily reviewed, while contraceptives were skirted around at best. … together students and faculty brainstormed methods of combating common difficulties women face, which inspired in attendees the confidence to approach obstacles without hesitation or fear.”

- Kyu Won Kim, China


We need to move beyond gender and its limited roles and stereotypes, and instead accept individuals as their true selves. Allow them to pursue the education, careers, roles in the community they choose, be with whomever they love, and so on. Only after all countries have accepted the LGBT community will we have true equality.

“What still seems impossible in Japan has already become accepted in the United States.”

“Same-sex marriage is legally recognized in the United States, and many well-known people have come out as gay, lesbian, transgender, and so on. I was also surprised to learn that many American high schools have clubs for LGBT students to gather and hold activities. … By going there, I hope to learn about what I can do from the administrative and judicial side to make LGBT rights accepted in Japan as they are in the U.S..”

- Sae Tamura, Japan


By meeting with people from the Tokyo LGBT community, and hearing their stories, Sae Tamura has been able to make friends and family more aware of LGBT issues, and sympathetic towards the LGBT community.

“Friends of mine came to me and asked me about LGBT issues, and for the first time, I felt I could accurately inform them. …  when I told [my mother] in detail about the meeting I participated in, [she] admitted that all of us have our differences, and she said she was ashamed to have thought badly of people just for being different.”

May there be equality, acceptance and opportunities for all genders and sexualities.


May Peace Prevail on Earth

 If you are interested in the issues raised, find out more using the following links:

  • Gender Equality is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, see their website

  • For more information on wellbeing in the LGBT community see the The LGBT Foundation’s website

We wish to thank all the contributors for the positive power of their thoughts and actions.

This is one of five journal entries summarising and highlighting the ideas in the International Essay Contest for Young People 2018. To see these essays in full and all sixty-six finalists, go to the Goi Peace Foundation website.

We wish to apologise to those essayists, whose work was not translated into English, for not being able to include their words.


The thumbnail picture is by Apnha Kyokoba, Belarus, for the Peace Pals International Art Exhibition and Awards 2018. See more on their website.

Liz Mackley