I think it’s fair to say that there is a significant amount of fatigue around ‘awareness days’ for subjects and issues that should be permanently high on our radar...
International Women’s Day, a globally recognised day to celebrate women’s contributions to society and to raise awareness about the various challenges they face, is one such ‘special day’. But the sad truth is, that without days like this to focus our minds and perhaps prick our conscience, it’s all too easy to become numb to the brutal reality of many women’s day to day lives around the world.
So on this IWD, maybe we should all take the time to reflect on the gender inequalities that still exist in many parts of the world, and the frequent and significant violation to women’s rights.
One such example is the Taliban’s treatment of women in Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, women in Afghanistan face severe restrictions on their freedom and rights. They are forced to cover themselves from head to toe and are prohibited from attending school or working outside the home. Women who dare to resist these restrictions face severe punishment, including beatings, imprisonment, and even execution.
In Iran women are forced to wear the hijab and are barred from participating in many areas of public life. Despite this, and at great cost to themselves, many women continue to fight for their rights, and following the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022, the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement, gained in strength and numbers, but it still needs our support if it is to succeed.
Even the progressive United States still has a long way to go when it comes to gender equality, with no paid maternity leave and a significant gender pay gap. Worse still, several states are actively seeking to curtail women’s sexual and reproductive rights – their right to make an informed choice about their own body.
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, paints a terrifying picture of a society that has taken away women’s rights. The book is set in a totalitarian society called Gilead, formerly the United States, where women are stripped of their rights and forced to bear children for the ruling class. The novel demonstrates the dangers of allowing governments to take away women’s rights and the importance of fighting for gender equality.
So on this International Women’s Day, take the time to look these issues in the eye – yes, do celebrate the genuine progress that has been made, but remember those international women for whom the fight for equality must seem un-winnable.
Only when we have a world where women are treated equally and have the same opportunities as men, can we truly say that we have achieved gender equality. Until then, awareness days need to serve as a reminder that we still have a long way to go.