Don’t drink beer, drink wine

Putha, leave your plate in the sink. Nangi will wash it”

“My son is going on a trip. So I’m packing his bag”

“Why is he ironing his shirt? Doesn’t he have a wife?”

Duwa it’s ok if he goes out all night. He’s a man no”

“What do you mean you don’t want kids? Your body is made for birth!”

If those sentences don’t make you want to take your shoe off and cause damage, then you probably don’t worry about monthly cycles.

If I were a boy…” aren’t just Beyoncé lyrics. It’s a phrase wholeheartedly felt by most females at some point in their lives. It’s not for want of a body switch. It’s because of a cocktail of restrictions, frustrations, and annoyance.

Many females in Sri Lanka too envy the male species, wish they were given equal attention, or simply wish they could go to the gedara langa kade without a two weeks notice and signatures from every male in their household.

No female comes out of the womb screaming gender inequality. They are forced to learn these differences while simultaneously coping with the mental and physical changes of growing up. 50.7% of Lankans are women, but society still forces them to adjust their choices in education, profession, friends, fashion, travel, and recreation from childhood.

Here are a few colourful commandments by our ‘wise elders’.

Regardless of religion, race, or location, restrictions hit females way before puberty does, leading most women to enter society while fighting off centuries-old stereotypes or holding themselves back because their grandma, dad, or long-lost aunt told them so.

Most females lose out on youth experiences because of restrictions against activities like sleepovers, birthday parties, and even friend dates. Girls — just like boys- need them to learn how to make better decisions, develop mental wellbeing, understand people, thrive in professional environments, make lifelong friends, and build their own lives. Otherwise, no matter how rich your husband might be, you still need his finances to buy him a gift.

Knowing your own potential brings strength, serenity and a little escape from pots and pans, in-law drama, diapers and your man-child when you need it.

Luckily, improvements in technology, workplace tolerance and of course internet connections, have given females more options.

But there is always an ugly reality that lurks everywhere from cubicles to lunchrooms. Gender discrimination and sexual harassment happens and it does directly affect motivation and productivity.

It’s seen in wage differences, being asked to dress to impress clients, being disregarded at meetings, not being considered for promotions due to maternity or marriage status, and in some cases, being subjected to unwelcome sexual jokes and advances. Imagine having to verbally fight off mansplainers who think you are always on your period when you speak up while the account manager tries to play footsie with you during a Monday morning meeting? Some harassment is often meant as jokes but they can be avoided if the boundaries were made clear or perhaps if the jokers thought twice, or maybe thrice before acting.

But a female’s career shouldn’t be limited to being a teacher or a home baker in an attempt to protect her feelings and honour. There’s potential to be much more than a gender definition- Let’s not forget that we’ve already had a female prime minister and a president.

But even with a rich history of strong female role models who broke through barriers and voiced their opinions, most Sri Lankan females still have to fight for simple equalities.

If every mother had asked her sons to do their own laundry and make their own snacks for school, working from home today wouldn’t transform a household into a forever daycare.

If every father made sure his daughters learned how to shift gears and practiced driving as a necessity, female drivers wouldn’t be so nervous at a roundabout.

If young girls were allowed to freely spend time with their friends, they wouldn’t gravitate towards lousy male partners and jump on the wedding wagon as an escape.

If parents punished their sons for not making their beds in the morning, most young brides wouldn’t instantly be transformed into an unpaid nanny.

All it takes to end gender discrimination is a few changes in the way children are brought up. It starts long before puberty. It starts with fair treatment of sons and daughters from the cradle and raising awareness about it at home and school.

If you’d like to play a role in making your workplace a safer place for women, get in touch with Layup to help you deliver training courses that raise awareness and teach employees what to do when they face or witness harassment and gender discrimination.

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