I am lucky enough to work for a company that demonstrates its support for IWD and commitment to equal gender progression and has joined the IWD campaign by creating an international photography competition for individuals from offices around the World to submit a photo that represents gender equality. We have been encouraged to share photographs that represent progress to us personally, whether that is at work, in home life, or in wider society, so I wanted to share my picture and blog here.
This picture represents gender equality to me, for many reasons. Firstly, this picture was taken during my holiday to Thailand in August 2017 where I spent one week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Chiang Mai. ENP is home to 73 elephants that have been rescued from terrible backgrounds, including the logging industry, tourist trekking, circuses and other abusive industries across Thailand. The founder of ENP is Lek Chailert, a truly amazing woman. Lek began advocating for the rights and welfare of the Asian elephants in Thailand and her voice is now internationally recognized. In addition to several documentaries produced by National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet and the BBC, Lek has also won many honorary awards. Lek has dedicated her life to rescuing elephants and educating people on their interaction with elephants. Volunteers pay a fee to volunteer at ENP, this money goes towards food and accommodation for the volunteers and pays to maintain the elephant sanctuary.
During my week of volunteering, I was required to complete daily chores including shovelling ele poo; preparing the ele food and unloading trucks of bananas that were harvested by the local villagers. One afternoon, we were taken on a trip to one of the local schools, this gave the volunteers a chance to see what life is like for the children of the local hill tribe villages. Some children were making bracelets which volunteers were able to purchase for 10THB (AED 1.17 / GBP 0.20p), others were offering foot massages which they were also charging 10THB for. What struck me the most from the school visit, was the young girl in my photo. She took me aside and asked me to go through her English book with her and teach her some new words. She missed out the words that she already knew the pronunciation of, and instead selected new words for me to teach her. Even with all of the fun activities going on around us, she chose to use this time during our interaction, to develop her English reading and speaking skills.
This photograph represents progress to me, demonstrated through the dedication and commitment that Lek has invested into creating a sanctuary for the rescued elephants, and the creation of the large charitable organisation that allows volunteers from around the world to visit and invest money into the surrounding hill tribe villages. Secondly, the young girl in this photo represents progress to gender equality through her desire to learn, develop and progress her education.