What a year it’s been for women! There have been so many historic moments, from the repeal of the 8th amendment in Ireland to the US November elections which saw record numbers of women elected to the House of Representatives – it is clear that there is a lot to celebrate. And celebrate we should! In fact, I think that all women should get an extra bank holiday on the 8th of March (from November the 10th in the UK last year women effectively stopped getting paid compared to their male counterparts so why shouldn’t we get an extra holiday!).
Female success is often hard won and so the cause for pride is even greater – but whilst we can see International Women’s Day as a time to admire how far we’ve come; we also need to think about how far we have to go. I spoke to some friends to find out their thoughts on the reasons why International Women’s Day is still so important.
Violence Against Women
“Women’s struggle has been a very long and rewarding historical journey. Sadly, however, domestic violence is still occurring in my country. I believe International Women’s Day is important to showcase not just the achievements of women, but also the continuous need to fight for women’s equal and just treatment in society.” Reem, Palestine.
It is an uncomfortable, and too often under-reported, truth that violence against women prevails around the world at a shocking level. One of the most common forms of this is domestic violence: worldwide, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence – mostly at the hands of their partners. We can’t talk about International Women’s Day without talking about the extreme levels of violence women face around the world.
“Today, many inequalities persist for women from all continents: sexual and reproductive health rights, working conditions, political participation … as long as these problems remain a reality, can we really question the importance of this day?” Leslie, Chile.
Reproductive health is an area where we have seen great strides this year! However, there is still so far to go. In the UK, thousands of Northern Irish women are denied access to abortion in almost all circumstances. Women around the world must have complete bodily autonomy if we are to achieve equality and this means we must have easy access to contraception and abortion.
Millions of women around the world are prevented from fulfilling their true potential because of period poverty. This is an issue which affects women on low incomes and has not always gotten the attention it deserves. Many school girls from low income communities are missing school 20% of the time because they can not access period products. No woman or girl should ever have to miss out on an opportunity purely because she is on her period.
“As long as men and women still don’t have equal rights, we need International Women’s Day to highlight work that still needs to be done. The other day I read an article that said women and men have equal working rights in only 6 countries. That’s crazy!” Weronika, UK.
Another area in which women haven’t quite achieved equality is the work place. It is estimated that women in Britain are losing nearly £140 billion a year because of the gender pay gap. And wealth isn’t the only issue that women have to contend with – half of women say they have been sexually harassed in the workplace. The workplace does not belong to men and women need to be equal in all aspects of society.
“So many think we have equal rights now but it’s really not true. Look at #MeToo, or the gender pay gap. I still experience everyday sexism in my life – being scared to walk home alone at night, or having to endure weird comments from men.” Sofia, Sweden.
As long as women have to contend with everyday sexism – from catcalls to stereotyping – we will know that there is still work for feminism to do. We need to work on eliminating sexism in all its forms.
I don’t just want to provide a long list of problems and leave you all in a state of despair. After all, I think the point of International Women’s Day is to think about the power we have to change things. There is so much that you can do for the advancement of women – you can educate people in your personal life about the real issues women still face, you can donate your time to activism or donate financially to the women’s charities which are doing good work every day of the year. So, take some time today to celebrate how far we have come, reflect on what still needs to change and most importantly take action to empower women around the world.
Happy International Women’s Day from all of us here at The Cup Effect!
Katrina Gaffney is a Cup Effect Volunteer Writer and a Media, Campaigning and Social Change Masters Student at the University of Westminster. She is an intersectional feminist who cares about human rights and peace campaigning. She also loves baking and can often be found cooking up a storm in the kitchen!