Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. Millions of people across the globe will celebrate and recognize the economic, political, civil and social impact and progress that courageous, ordinary women have made in their communities. Today is a day to recognize and focus some much needed attention towards women’s rights and gender equality.
Inequality between men and women has not disappeared. It’s right here— right now. Women still get paid 10-30% less than men for the same job. There is still not an equal ratio between men and women in politics or business, and women still suffer through physical and sexual violence, and lack of education and healthcare at a much higher percentage than men.
It’s important that we all do our part to continue moving towards and focus great attention on equality between men and women. This day is not just to focus on women in our community but other communities throughout the world as well. This is a global issue that every society suffers from– and remember, as numerous wise people have said, “this is not a women’s issue, this is a human rights issue.”
The first National Women’s Day was observed in New York City in the year 1909, in remembrance of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union who marched and picketed for improved working conditions and women’s rights the year before. Denmark became the second country to recognize a National Women’s Day, bathing light onto women’s rights and the country’s suffrage movement. Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Russia were the next countries to follow, where millions of men and women rallied and protested for the right of women to vote, work, hold public office and, for the women who were working, to end discrimination in the workforce.
The United Nations began recognizing International Women’s Day in 1975 and has since celebrated this day with a dedicated theme each year. This year, the UN’s theme is “Empowering Women-Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” This theme is meant to recognize what is arguably the most progressive document for advocating women’s rights, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Nearly 50,000 people, a combination of representatives from 189 governments and 30,000 non-governmental agencies, joined together in Beijing to produce this powerful guideline that made a plan for all governments involved to develop a national strategy to improve the situation of girls and women in their communities.
The Beijing Platform for Action called for women and girls to experience their freedom of choice and human rights, with a life free from violence, child marriages and discrimination, the right to attend school, work, earn equal pay, promote economic independence, and have the right to participate in political, economical and environmental decision making. The document committed to eliminate all obstacles in the way of gender equality and to motivate men to play a role in this move towards equality.
Twenty years later, there has been much improvement, but there is still a serious gap that needs great work.