Today is my daughters 14th birthday. It is also International Women’s Day. Somehow that feels significant – I can’t quite describe why. I am mum to 3 girls, aged 17, 14 and 11. Raising my girls is a privilege and a challenge. I have had many moments in the years since I became a parent when I have all but mourned the potential loss of opportunity in their future lives, because they are girls.
‘These girls can’…but against what odds? I tell them, just about daily, that they can do and achieve whatever they like; the world is their oyster. But am I spinning them a yarn? Will they be able to do whatever they like or will they be marginalised because of their gender? I am yet to settle on an answer to this.
Celebrating women’s achievements began over a century ago in 1909 when the first National Women’s day was observed in the US in honour of those (garment workers) who went on strike in New York regarding their working conditions. This was swiftly followed in 1910 by the creation of a Women’s Day by ‘The Socialist International’, in Copenhagen. The purpose of the day was to ‘honour the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women.’
The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.
– Gloria Steinem –
The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day as we know it today in 1975, during International Women’s Year. Since then on March 8th annually, a ‘global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women’ has occurred. The day also ‘marks a call to action accelerating gender parity’. (Source: www.un.org)
Why March 8th?
In 1917, amidst the backdrop of WWI, women in Russia chose to protest and strike for “Bread and Peace” on this day. ‘Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.’
Did you know?
- Women with full-time jobs still earn only about 77 % of their male counterparts’ earnings.
- Globally 62 million girls are denied an education.
- 4 out of 5 victims of human trafficking are girls.
- At least 1000 honour killings occur in India and Pakistan each annually. The victims are predominantly young women.
- Around the world, only 32% of all national parliamentarians are female.
- Less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women.
- 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
- Computer science degrees – men outnumber women 4:1
This years International Women’s Day campaign theme is #pressforprogress, and the campaign aims to negate complacency; ‘Individually, we’re one drop but together we’re an ocean. Commit to a “gender parity mindset” via progressive action. Let’s all collaborate to accelerate gender parity, so our collective action powers equality worldwide.’ (via nternationalwomensday.com).
Yes, things have improved for women over the last 100 years or so, but at a very slow rate and are currently approaching a standstill. On the International Women’s Day website individuals are encouraged to select an area to commit to. Such areas include – challenging stereotypes and bias, influencing other’s beliefs and actions and forging the visibility of women. But, what does it actually look like to commit and take action? The website gives suggestions. For example, if you pledge to commit to ‘challenging stereotypes and bias’ in your ‘field’ this might include:
- questioning assumptions about women
- challenging statements that limit women
- always using inclusive language
- working to remove barriers to women’s progress
- buying from retailers who position women in positive ways
With a little time, effort and research, these are all reasonable/do-able suggestions. Taking action does not always have to be something that someone else does, or something that means committing huge amounts of time that many of us don’t have. If we all challenge ourselves to make some small changes in our daily lives, eventually great things could happen. So, wonderful people reading this, I urge you to click on the link above, have a read and see what small but very necessary pledge you can make.
I have always taught my girls to question things, but, inevitably given the privileges that we have as white westerners, complacency can often rear its ugly head. So, in honour of International Women’s Day and those amazing women that have forged the path before us and for my daughter (and her sisters), on her birthday (to equip her with a questioning mindset), I will make specific efforts to commit to encouraging positive behaviours regarding the #pressforprogress campaign. I feel that as a mother of 3 young women, this is absolutely my responsibility.
According to the World Economic forum’s global gender gap report, we are still over 200 years away from gender parity…200 years! Complacency that comes with improved rights for women over the last 100 years cannot be afforded. We need to keep telling our girls that they can do and be whatever they want, but they will need to fight for it!
Do let us know if and how you are committing to the #pressforprogress campaign. I’d particularly love to hear from other mums of young girls and how you go about encouraging your little women to question/challenge gender parity.