International Women’s Day (IWD): We must make it happen

International Women’s Day (IWD): We must make it happen

March is upon us once again; a month when we reflect on and celebrate the achievement of women all across the globe. This year’s theme “Make it happen” is very fitting because while it highlights the need for recognition of the barriers that have been broken, it also emphasises the fact that the ultimate goal of equality between genders is far from reached.

This year’s celebration is particularly important as it marks two decades since the adoption of the UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. In 1995, there was finally a clear agenda that had as a goal to pave the way for positive achievements for women’s rights and equality.

Thus far we can celebrate numerous milestones that have collectively been achieved over the centuries and within the last few years. With the rise of various feminist movements across the globe and worldwide campaigns that have shone a light on pressing matters that affect women, it is undeniable that we have made tremendous strides towards equality for all. For example, today women in Afghanistan have pushed for initiatives through women’s rights campaigns, harmful traditional practices (e.g. forced marriages and FGM) have been criminalised and reported arrests have been made in countries such as Burkina Faso and Egypt, more cases of violence against women are being reported and cases have being taken to court in Zimbabwe, countries such as South Africa and Rwanda are spearheading the rise in women in government and the number of women that appear on the Forbes and Fortune lists speaks volumes about their achievement in the business world.

Having said all the above, we still have a considerable way to go because in society where a woman still has to justify why she deserves the same wage as her male equal, where the education of boys is favoured to that of girls, where women’s visibility/influence in the political sphere and the media continues to be a struggle, where a third of women (on a global scale) continue to experience some form of violence, where women are the face of poverty, it is evident that “making it happen” is the attitude that must be adopted. Despite having advanced in many ways, so-called ‘modernised’ countries that have seemingly made the biggest stride in pushing gender equality are not immune to challenges that women continue to face; another piece of evidence that proves that the battle is not over.

We must make it happen by not only formulating policy and passing laws but focus on strengthening the legal frameworks/institutions and demanding responsible leadership in order to effectively drive change. We must make it happen by encouraging the full and equal participation of women by encouraging partnership with men. We must make it happen by abandoning empty rhetoric, avoid (dare I say it) ‘gender fatigue’ and focus on truly empowering ourselves and each other. There are several ways in which we must make it happen but first and foremost, we must make it happen by having an honest conversation about the reasons why the challenges regarding gender equality persist.

Food for thought:

“…gender inequality remains a pervasive societal ill indicative of warped paradigms entrenched deep within the heart of mankind. Authentic human development is the key to changing societies. Legislation, treaties and policies cannot change the darkness in human hearts”

Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro, Fiji

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