Until her first trip to New York, Eleanor Fernandez didn’t realize how good women in this part of the world have it, comparatively.
And how far all women still have to come.
Fernandez, 15, was one of four girls from the Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council to make the recent trip to the 60th Commission on the Status of Women event, held by the United Nations. The Fort Mill High School sophomore was part of a handful of Girl Scout delegates from the greater Charlotte, Chicago and San Diego areas.
“It was an eye-opener for her,” said mom Sabrina. “We live in such a bubble here.”
Fernandez arrived back home with a more “international perspective,” she said, on issues impacting women. Many issues the average Fort Mill or Tega Cay resident might not be aware of — child brides, acid burns, body mutilations.
“The U.S., we have it pretty good,” Fernandez said.
Yet varying degrees of discrimination exist. Some countries won’t allow women to own property. Some areas have rites-of-passage that may be considered inhumane elsewhere. Part of the conference was to share information with the goal of better informing women and pushing for institutional change worldwide.
“They accept it, because that’s all they’ve ever known,” Fernandez said. “Women have other options.”
Fernandez heard the challenges of female entrepreneurship in Iran. She heard of advocates in China and elsewhere.
“The systematic discrimination puts women behind,” she said. “A lot of cultures, they don’t see it as wrong.”
Even this country, which Fernandez admits treats women far better compared to some other places, has its issues. Violence against women in the military or on college campuses are not uncommon and there’s evidence that attacks are likely underreported.
Just after Fernandez returned home, several members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team sued its governing body for wage discrimination, claiming men on the national team earn more than women despite the women producing more revenue last year.
For Fernandez, mistreatment of women in various forms is a personal concern. She has sisters age 12 and 5.
“Imagine if it was your sister,” she said.
She does see reason for optimism. Social media can expose mistreatment almost anywhere in the world faster than it ever has, and people subject to unfair treatment have more opportunities to learn there is a larger world beyond their homes.
Plus, Fernandez said, young people today tend to lean toward fairness. And if the world isn’t theirs already, it will be soon.
Fernandez said she sees a changing world, but one still with work to do before men and women are treated equally.
“We are definitely not there yet,” she said.