“We can’t succeed when half of us are held back.” -Malala Yousafzai
It’s International Women’s Day. One day out of the year to celebrate that we are successful, despite a widening gender pay gap, to be proud that we are driving social progress despite only making up, on average, less than half of all Members of Parliament (NZ).
To tread lightly in the face of ‘where is international men’s day?’ nonsense and try to explain statistics such as, 1 in 3 women have or will experience sexual and/or physical violence from a partner in their lifetime, as if these statistics need to be defended by women.
To fight against Female Genital Mutilation, abuse which effects 125 million women world-wide.
Perhaps it is time to quietly mention that in rural areas globally, women are disproportionately effected by poverty in contrast to men due to their roles as carers rather than financial earners. In rural Peru 33.7% of women are illiterate compared with 10.9% of men due to a lack of access to education resources, issues all worsened by malnutrition and food scarcity due to the altitude and remoteness of these villages. The UN reports that “a child born to a mother who can read is 50 per cent more likely to survive. Every year of education beyond grade four that a woman receives, reduces risks of her child dying by 10 per cent.” Even basic chauvinist
reductionism requires that to make more men we need educated women.
So what are we celebrating exactly?
The UN highlights that “women continue to earn less, have fewer assets, and are largely concentrated in vulnerable and low-paying activities. Seventy-five per cent of women’s employment in developing regions is informal and unprotected.” Water scarcity is a global issue but women have specific biological needs that only increase their need for clean water such as pre- and post-partum care and facilities to manage monthly menstruation. A refugee in the Arizona Immigration Centre told Human Rights Watch that she begged to take a shower and asked for sanitary pads.
She was given two, not nearly enough and explained “I had to just sit on the toilet for hours because I had nothing else [I could] do.”
This International Women’s Day, the focus must be on the continued strength in the marginalised 50% of the world’s population, the success achieved in visible and invisible ways, the contributions that go unmeasured behind closed doors under the blanket idea of traditionalism and the continued efforts made to improve gender equality globally.
Happy International Women’s Day everyone.