THE BLOG
30/11/2015 14:56 GMT | Updated 30/11/2016 05:12 GMT

Are Women Under Pressure to Conform? Join the Global Debate With BBC's 100 Women

On 1 December, the BBC will bring a series of debates together from around the world to discuss what it means to be a 'good girl' or an 'ideal woman' in different regions and cultures.

Brainstorming the debate questions for 100 Women can be a challenge in the BBC's 29 language services. Some questions and issues don't translate well, travel across cultures, or ring true in our many markets, but armed with crowdsourced ideas from our audience and a merry band of multi-lingual journalists, we gave it a go.

The pressure to be a "good girl" resonated with many audiences. Girls are expected to behave a certain way - it might be about prettiness or chastity, being marriage material or a pioneer, becoming a leader or follower.

What was considered the so-called right way to behave varied enormously between countries, between urban and rural, religious and secular societies. Some said they put pressure on themselves, for others it was their family, friends, society, or Facebook!

So we made pressure and expectation the central pivot of our debates, splitting it in to areas of leadership, image and relationships we looked to structure a debate that posed provocative questions, ones that were exciting enough to get people going, but also that could be answered and debated by groups of girls, women and men living in very different circumstances. And we landed on the following:

Leadership - are women who act like men more likely to become leaders? Are quotas the only way to see more women in public roles? Image - are beautiful women more likely to succeed? How much time do you spend perfecting your image either in reality or on social media? And relationships - is it expected for a woman to be subservient? Is a relationship more or less likely to fail when a woman is successful?

Each year we try and do something different with 100 Women, but there's always an arms-wide open debate at some point. This year I strongly felt we needed to mobilise forces beyond our own resources. So our producer Karnie got out her phone, she ramped up the charm and rung, emailed and messaged hundreds of organisations and groups around the world to ask if they wanted to host their own 100 Women debate. Basically the answer was - yes, most loved the idea of owning a franchise branch of a debate.

We sent each host a pack in the post, or they could download in online. Then we posted them to our groups in Nigeria, Japan, Chile, US, Spain, Hong Kong, Kosovo, Samoa, New Zealand, South Africa, The United Kingdom, the UAE - and to 50 other countries.

Still on the phone, (Karnie spent about six weeks solidly on the phone) more groups came forward, more said thank you for giving us this chance. And I felt humbled. It isn't the first or last time 100 Women has done that.

Our colleagues in Nepal got a call from the President's office wanting to be involved. So our BBC Media Action colleagues fixed 100 women from all over the country to come to Kathmandu and debate with their first female President Bidhya Devi Bhandari about women's rights and the future of their country.

Some days I feel we've been running our own empowerment programme. "Who's in charge," the prospective host asks. "You," we say. "Who's going to steer it," they ask. "You," we say. "OK - I'll do it," they say.

We started 100 Women in 2013 to reach new female audiences and to increase stories on BBC news about women told by women. And on 1 December we will be trying to do that again. Of course we will be debating in London and we will hear from guests on a TV set, but the exciting bit is that we'll eavesdrop on the debates taking place in school auditoriums, around kitchen tables, in cafes, at radio stations, in women's refuges, in university lecture theatres, in mum and baby groups in drafty village halls, in Spanish, in Arabic, in Swahili, in Hindi, in English.

You can experience it all day with us on the bbc.co.uk/100women website and on BBC World News and BBC World Service between 0930 and 1900 GMT.

You can catch up with 100 Women season on BBC World Service and online

Join the debate #100women

@bbcworldservice

Fiona Crack is the editor of the BBC's 100 Women season, which runs across BBC World News, 29 languages of BBC World Service and bbc.com until 2 December.