As a child I was fortunate to have many positive female role models in my life which never lead me to question or think that my gender would restrict me in what I wanted to do with my life. However as I have grown up and entered my adult life I’ve become conscious of the existing gender inequalities operating in society which impact the lives of women.
In honour of International Women’s Day I write and share this piece with you.
Around the world women have diverse and dynamic roles, in our daily lives we have women playing important roles from being mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts and cousins, to being role models, providers, leaders, workers, carers, inventors, the list is endless. Indeed there are women all around the world making a positive difference, many of whom we will never know their names yet the people around them will feel the benefit of their actions.
Every year on the 8th March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day, but why do we have or need such a day? A simple answer could be to say because there is no country in the world that has reached gender equality, so we need to continue to raise awareness over the issue.
However this leads us to ask the question what is gender inequality and how does it affect women differently? Here I look to unravel this question and explore why the celebration of International Women’s Day is so important.
What is Gender Inequality and how does it affect women?
I recently saw a comment made about the double standard of gender equality and why there is no International Men’s Day or a drive to get more boys into education like the drive to get more girls into education. Firstly just to note there actually is an IMD it’s on 19th November but it’s just not publicised very well!
However the comment made me think about what ‘Gender Equality’ really is and how does it affect women? I came to the conclusion that ‘Gender Equality’ should be the mutual respect and absolute undiscriminating empowerment of all genders. Gender Equality should be about a person not being scared or restricted in doing something just because of their gender while no person should be prevented from doing something just because of their gender.
In reality however this is not the case, there are many gender inequalities faced and experienced by women on a daily basis. We still live in a world that being born a female automatically ensures that your life will face certain inequalities that you may not have otherwise of faced had you been born a male. While in some places in our world being born a female you are considered less valuable than being a male.
And in some extreme cases female babies do not even make it into this world because during pregnancy parents discover that the sex of their unborn child is female and decide to end the pregnancy which is known as Female infanticide, or at birth the female baby is killed Femicide
There are many other challenges and forms of inequalities faced by women around the world, here are just a few.
- Employment- Pay Gaps– “Women earn on average 15% less than men and at the top of the pay scale, 21% less.”
- Restricted Economic Opportunities- there are 128 countries with at least 1 legal difference restricting women’s economic opportunity.
- Increased Psychical and Sexual violence– Global statistics show that 35% of women have experienced sexual violence in their life time. Only 52 counties criminalise rape within marriage. 2.6 Billion however live in a country that doesn’t.
- Under representation in political decision-making- Only 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians were female as of January 2015 (UN Women)
- Lack of Access to Education– 1 in 5 girls of lower secondary age is out of school, 1 in 3 girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18.
- Health- Every year, almost 300,000 women lose their life due to preventable complications during pregnancy & childbirth. (Care International)
With such inequalities continually effecting women’s lives, we must continue to work for gender equality and social change, to ensure that no matter what sex/gender you are, you are considered a valuable member of society, both given and treated with the respect that all human rights grant. We must work together as a society locally and globally to deconstruct all social, structural and cultural norms that allow these gender inequalities to continue.
How is women’s inequality being addressed?
At an international level governments and world organisations have pledged their support to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, an agreement and framework which sets out 12 key areas of concern and “remains the world’s best blueprint for achieving gender equality and empowering women.”
At a community grassroots level however we also need to start addressing the social attitudes we hold towards women. Women need to be better openly supported and valued at every level of society.
Women’s empowerment and equality will benefit the whole society
So what is IWD and why do we need it?
Let’s be clear international women’ day is not about women vs men or criticising the opposite sex. Rather it is about supporting the roles and acknowledging the achievements of women within our diverse world. It is also because women continue to experience inequality simply because they are women that we take this day to raise awareness and show support for the rights of all women across the world, which helps to bring such inequalities to an end.
Over the years I’ve had the privilege to meet and interact with women from around the world, from the local business woman Beba in Mostar Bosnia and Herzegovina, overcoming the effects of conflict to rebuild her family home and turning it into a successful business, the women in Afghanistan working every day and risking their lives in support of ending violence and bringing peace to their country. To the women I work with and meet every day doing valuable work that they often don’t even realise is making such a positive difference for our society.
And while we should support the rights and empowerment of women everyday it is nice that for one day of the year on the 8th March the world unites and collectively comes together to honour women all around the world. Encouraging women no matter where in the world they are, to be empowered, to realise their full potential and to value the contribution they make to our world.
I strongly believe that the empowerment of and fulfilment of women’s rights will have an overarching positive effect not just for their lives but also for the benefit of society as a whole. It is therefore time we all supported the advancement of women’s equality.
“Remember women of the world you are great and together we can and will overcome Gender inequality”
 Find out more at http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/medical/infanticide_1.shtml
 Launch of first major OECD report on gender and education – Thursday 5 March 2015, http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/launch-of-first-major-oecd-report-on-gender-and-education.htm