In case you missed it among all the talk about the Budget and National Insurance hikes, it was International Women’s Day this week (8 March 2017). Working in an office full of strong, intelligent and charismatic women, it would be unacceptable for me not to share something to mark this day of worldwide action against gender inequality and celebration of the immense achievements of women from all walks of life.
Sitting in an office in leafy Surrey, I am acutely aware of my privilege. That’s not to say that, as a woman, I’ve not experienced forms of sexism or felt the burden of gender stereotypes at times – I think we all have. And this is not okay. However, these experiences pale in comparison to those of women across the world for whom violence, restriction and discrimination are a part of life – part of being born female. I have a job which allows me to earn my own money and support myself financially. Many women across the world do not, and not through choice. I have my own home where I feel comfortable and safe. Many women do not. I have the freedom to express my thoughts and chase my dreams. Many women do not. I could go on…
The astounding strides that gender equality has made in recent years should not be underestimated. Even in my short 24 years on this earth, I’ve witnessed change of a great magnitude, here at home and across the globe. While this should be celebrated, we must remain conscious of the facts that: women still earn less than men on average, despite working longer hours when unpaid work (such as housework and childcare, of which they do the lion’s share according to research) is taken into account; the female voice is still hugely underrepresented within positions of power and leadership; and the female body is still subject to intense and painful scrutiny from men, the media and – dare I say it? – women themselves (the maxim “comparison if the thief of joy” rings true here).
The ultimate goal is simple, yet seemingly difficult to achieve: a world where people have equal opportunities and treatment, irrespective of their gender. Here are just a few of the issues that we, as a worldwide community of men and women, need to tackle before this goal can be achieved. Warning…these statistics will most likely make you feel the sense of gratitude and privilege that I mentioned earlier:
- Over 700 million women alive today were married when they were under 18. 250 million of these were married before they turned 15 (UNICEF, 2014).
- Around 1 in 10 (120 million) girls worldwide have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives (UNICEF, 2014).
- Globally, women make up just 22 per cent of parliamentarians (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2014).
- In January 2015, only 17 per cent of government ministers globally were women (Inter-Parliamentary Union).
- Women spend at least twice as much time as men on domestic work, and when all work – paid and unpaid – is considered, women work longer hours than men (The World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics).
- Worldwide, women are paid less than men. In most countries, women earn on average 60 – 75 per cent of men’s wages (World Bank Gender Data Portal, 2015).
- In a study of 173 countries, 155 have at least one legal difference restricting women’s economic opportunities. Of those, 100 have laws that restrict the types of jobs that women can do, and in 18 husbands can prevent their wives from accepting jobs (World Bank, 2015).
- Women make up 80 per cent of all refugees and displaced people (Amnesty International USA).
- Every 90 seconds, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth. Most of these deaths and preventable but, due to gender-based discrimination, in many cases women are not given the proper education or care they need (Amnesty International USA).
- Women account for 70 per cent of the global population living in absolute poverty, which is defined as less than $1 a day (globalcitizen.org).
For me, International Women’s Day 2017 was a day to celebrate the achievements of women across the world. After all, without them we simply would not be here. But it was also a time to reflect on the brutal inequalities that still exist and how we can raise awareness of them, so that by International Women’s Day 2018, we’re one step closer to achieving that holy grail of complete equality and justice, worldwide.
Top image: www.internationalwomensday.com
Bottom image: www.fatinthecity.com