Women's Ever Chang­ing and Ever Vi­tal Role in So­ci­ety

Women have long taken part in hu­man­ity's long road of evo­lu­tion, but only now are they ac­knowl­edged for the crit­i­cal role they play in shap­ing so­ci­ety. Now it is more vi­tal than ever to lis­ten to what they have to say.

Indonesia Expat - - NEWS - By Caranissa Djat­miko


This fits a widely-be­lieved nar­ra­tive that back in the age of hunt­ing and gath­er­ing, it was men who set out on ad­ven­tures to kill an­i­mals and pro­vide for the fam­ily, while the women stayed to main­tain liv­ing quar­ters and care for chil­dren. The social struc­tures then were be­lieved to be pre­dom­i­nantly gov­erned by the males, ul­ti­mately lim­it­ing the role of women in a hunter­gath­erer so­ci­ety which has changed lit­tle un­til to­day.

Yet, re­cent stud­ies have shown hunter-gath­erer so­ci­eties ac­tu­ally worked on egal­i­tar­ian prin­ci­ples. While we of­ten pic­ture pre­his­toric so­ci­eties as be­ing the ge­n­e­sis of much of gen­der in­equal­ity these days, it turns out they are more likely to have been run equally by both male and fe­male mem­bers. Re­searchers from Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don found in 2015 that men and women had equal in­flu­ence in an­cient so­ci­eties, a far cry from the pa­tri­ar­chal cul­tures com­monly be­lieved to have been in place.

This is un­der­stood to have changed dur­ing the ad­vent of agri­cul­ture. The ar­rival of new tech­nolo­gies is said to have been the driv­ing force be­hind the im­bal­ance, with hu­mans learn­ing to ac­cu­mu­late re­sources more ef­fi­ciently for the first time. Dur­ing this pe­riod, men of­ten had sev­eral wives and many chil­dren. They also re­ceived more in­come and were more likely to bond with male kin. It is through this, the study found, that gen­der in­equal­ity was born.

Al­ter­na­tively, Marco Kusumaw­i­jaya, founder and di­rec­tor of the Ru­jak Cen­tre for Ur­ban Stud­ies ( RCUS), thinks agri­cul­ture is one in­stance in which women be­gan to play an im­por­tant role in broader so­ci­ety, as it is be­lieved agri­cul­ture was in­deed founded by women. When the prac­tice be­gan to de­velop 11,000 years ago, the role of women in com­mu­ni­ties was height­ened. It is be­lieved women had ob­served seeds grow­ing, be­fore plant­ing them to de­lib­er­ately grow pro­duce.

Other stud­ies of hunter-gath­erer so­ci­eties sug­gest hunters ( pre­dom­i­nantly men) would pro­vide just 10 per­cent of the to­tal food for the com­mu­nity, while gath­er­ers, largely women, were re­spon­si­ble for the rest. While the dawn of agri­cul­ture can rightly be said to have sig­nif­i­cantly in­flu­enced gen­der re­la­tions, it could be con­sid­ered one of the defin­ing mo­ments cel­e­brat­ing the con­tri­bu­tion of women to so­ci­ety.

Fast for­ward to the 21st cen­tury and the role of women in con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety is be­ing in­creas­ingly rec­og­nized. Women to­day con­tinue to take the lead as we progress to­wards a more egal­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety. Terms like 'al­pha fe­males' and 'ca­reer women,' for ex­am­ple, show how much at­ten­tion is given to women re­ori­ent­ing their path­ways in life. As an ar­chi­tect and ur­ban­ist, Kusumaw­i­jaya thinks women's ideas and ac­com­plish­ments must be fully ad­dressed and ap­pre­ci­ated in or­der to gain an ac­cu­rate un­der­stand­ing of our so­ci­ety.

“Now if we are mov­ing to the ur­ban con­text, it’s very easy to ob­serve, and the sta­tis­tics would show that there are more and more women who work out­side the house or even inside the house gen­er­at­ing in­come,” Kusumaw­i­jaya said in an in­ter­view with In­done­si­aEx­pat. He added:

“So of course then the city needs to pay at­ten­tion to women be­cause they be­come, in a way, more and more func­tional, not only at home but also in pub­lic life, [specif­i­cally] when it comes to eco­nomic pro­duc­tion.”

Kusumaw­i­jaya said it is vi­tal to note the role of women in the for­ma­tion of the places where we live. He says women typ­i­cally pay more at­ten­tion to spe­cific de­tails than men do, thanks to a stronger fo­cus on car­ing for life. This, he says, is due to the abil­ity to bear chil­dren which gives women an ad­van­tage that can help a city solve prob­lems.

In the ' Women and Habi­tat' dis­cus­sion hosted by RCUS, key speak­ers re­vealed why women's voices need to be heard. Dr. Pireeni Sun­dar­alingam, a con­scious­ness sci­en­tist, ad­dressed why it is im­por­tant to in­clude women in solv­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sues.

“Our planet is cur­rently fac­ing dra­matic chal­lenges. Now, more than ever be­fore, we need to find in­no­va­tive, cre­ative so­lu­tions to some of the most dif­fi­cult chal­lenges fac­ing hu­man­ity. If we are to not just sur­vive as a species but also de­velop and pros­per, we need to make sure that we widen our net,” she said. Sun­dar­alingam be­lieves it is not enough to sim­ply ask both men and women to get in­volved. She sug­gests that we must "rad­i­cally change the way we ad­dress prob­lems." This means that it is not nec­es­sar­ily about in­creas­ing the num­ber of peo­ple help­ing solve prob­lems but in­stead welcoming many dif­fer­ent ways of think­ing.

“This is where the role of women’s voices and ideas have that po­ten­tial,” she said. “When women join the prob­lem-solv­ing space, they are bring­ing voices and ideas that are rad­i­cally new. They do not just bring so­lu­tions to the ta­ble, but stim­u­late dif­fer­ent ways of think­ing amongst the peo­ple who are al­ready present at the ta­ble.”

The way to make women agents of change is to lis­ten to a va­ri­ety of voices, es­pe­cially those who have strug­gled through all sorts of chal­lenges in life. Those who have ex­pe­ri­enced loss, pain and suf­fer­ing earn more than the right to be heard. In truth, they are the ones who can pro­vide us with cre­ative so­lu­tions that oth­ers have yet to dis­cover.

When women join the prob­lem­solv­ing space, they are bring­ing voices and ideas that are rad­i­cally new. They do not just bring so­lu­tions to the ta­ble, but stim­u­late dif­fer­ent ways of think­ing amongst the peo­ple who are al­ready present at the ta­ble.

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