During the recent celebration of International Women’s Day, and with March being ‘Women’s History month’, I became aware that people were questioning whether we still actually need an International Women’s Day and why there is no such celebration for International Men’s Day (which falls on November 19th each year). After all, it is undeniable that women’s rights have advanced hugely since 1909, when the first Women’s Day was celebrated.
After a series of historic firsts, 2018 was labelled ‘the Year of the Woman’. This saw: a record 36 women win seats in the Unites States House of Representatives in November; Ireland vote to repeal one of the world’s most restrictive abortion bans, and Ethiopia appoint its first female president. Concurrently, the #MeToo movement gave women the chance to voice the abuse and harassment they suffer in industries such as film, fashion, music, politics and art.
Such accomplishments make it easier to understand why some may question the ongoing necessity of International Women’s day, with gender equality being seemingly within our grasp. However, 2018 was also the year when there were fewer female Republicans in the United States Senate than men named John in the same chamber and the gender pay gap widened in the UK, where women worked ‘for free’ from November 10th until the end of the year because of the gender pay gap. Furthermore, according to the World Economic Forum the gender pay gap won’t close until 2186 – 167 years away.
Thus, when looking at the gender inequality that still exits, it becomes glaringly obvious that we are a long way off achieving full gender equality for women. In a recent open letter, the Group of Women Leaders for Change and Inclusion warned that progress was, in fact, eroding. Susana Malcorra, the former Argentine foreign minister, attributed this to the fact that many countries have a ‘macho-type strongman’ leader.
I think it is especially important to look beyond the UK and the modernised western world to fully understand why gender parity still remains out of our reach. According to the ‘Girls Not Brides’ partnership, 23 girls under the age of 18 marry every minute – 750 million women alive today were married before the age of 18. Moreover, in 18 countries men have the right to legally prevent their wives from working and it was not until last year that women in Saudi Arabia were granted the right to drive.
Thus, it becomes clear that in many areas of the world there has been a significant lack of progression towards achieving full gender equality, answering the questions as to why International Women’s Day is still as important today as it was over 100 years ago.
In the words of Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society; ‘Despite a 21st century resurgence in feminism, we are still living in a 20th century world which was designed by men for men.’
Sylvia, Deputy Head Girl
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