After enduring limitations from society on the sole basis of her gender, Ana Ake is acutely aware that the future of her small island nation will depend on men and women rising together.
"In order to do this we must see men as our allies, our partners through thick and thin."
I grew up in Tonga, a Pacific island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. When I was born, I became another statistic. I was just another girl delivered into a world of parents anticipating the birth of their first male child. Despite their disappointment, my parents chose to raise me, while trying desperately for a son. When finally, out of shining rays my little brother was delivered, it was as if all my mother’s prayers were answered and the doors of heaven opened.
Still, I was lucky to have parents who were liberal enough to educate their children—even me, the girl—and allowed religious diversity in our home. But even when you are raised liberally at home, you still have the rest of society plucking feathers from your wings when you try to fly free. If you’re strong enough to ignore the gossip around you and make it to university, you’re one of a handful of lucky girls. Many—especially those on the smaller outlying islands—don’t make it to high school, and these girls almost always end up living off the land and sea and raising families on almost no income.
We can't all migrate overseas or attend university or have access to funds that support us in our journey. That's why building our own economies and supporting sustainable development in small isolated communities is one of the most important things we can do to liberate girls and women. We must rise together if we are to eradicate poverty and the oppression of women and girls. We can all share the responsibility of becoming better carers for our own nations.
In order to do this we must see men as our allies, our partners through thick and thin. Without them, we can't build our perfect nations. With them we make stronger links and we combat our own differences. This can't be about men and women and gender differences; this is about harmonizing the future so that all women and girls can have the opportunities they deserve.
ABOUT THIS STORY
This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign. This campaign showcases solutions and unites grassroots voices speaking out for the rights of girls worldwide.