March 8th, today, is International Women’s Day. Lots of countries have some kind of celebration to mark the day, but still plenty of people question whether we should have a special day to celebrate women, or why there is no International Men’s Day.* (I remember as a child wondering why there was a Mothers’ Day and a Fathers’ Day but no Kids’ Day, but as I got older the answer to that question became pretty obvious, as I think the answer to this question should be!)
For me, IWD is less about “celebrating women” – while that is lovely, I absolutely agree we should celebrate the value of all people regardless of gender. For me, IWD is more about recognising that gender inequality exists in the world and it is an injustice that affects ALL of us, male and female.
A couple of years ago on IWD, I posted a Facebook status with some statistics from the UN – that women make up 51+% of the world’s population but earn 10% of the world’s income and own 1% of the wealth. Those are some pretty sobering statistics that I would hope prompt some reflection on all kinds of injustice in the world. What I didn’t expect was the statistic that was created in response – 100% of the men who commented on my status made light of it in some way. And these are not men I would have called sexist, chauvinistic or people who belittle women in any way. Just ordinary Aussie (Christian!) guys. That’s why I was so surprised. That’s what reminded me that we still need International Women’s Day.
I have previously written about how as a Christian I don’t always like to accept other labels, including feminist, because of the baggage of other people’s perceptions. But as a global citizen, there is no question for me that I need to speak up about what is probably the greatest injustice in the world today, because women are human beings just as men are, and until they are treated as such we are all suffering.
It remains terrifyingly true that 1 in 3 women will experience sexual assault during her lifetime. 75% of the 21 million victims of human trafficking each year are female, with the majority of those forced into sexual slavery.
The new World Bank report notes that despite many improvements, women continue to trail behind men on EVERY SINGLE economic measure. There is no country on earth where women have wage parity with men. (And this is not simply about a man being paid more than a woman for the same work, although that still happens more often than you might think. The bigger problem is systemic: jobs typically done by women are far less valued than jobs typically done by men).
This UNESCO report shows that 2/3 of the world’s illiterate adults are women, and that girls are disproportionately excluded from education. The education of girls benefits everyone, and has been demonstrated to decrease infant mortality rates, reduce HIV rates, and generally reduce the factors that lead to poverty. Not poverty for women, poverty for everyone.
So … some good things to share from today. Check some of these out:
1. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s IWD 2014 message on how equality for women benefits everyone
2. Google’s doodle video celebrating IWD 2014
3. Buzzfeed’s list of 22 inspirational Australian women
4. Reuters article on why educating girls can help eradicate poverty
5. World Vision’s project for the education of girls – how for $35 you can make a huge generational difference and help eradicate poverty
6. And if you’ve got a bit of time, watch Chimamanda Adichie’s 30 minute TEDx talk … especially for any woman who has ever felt she needs to apologise for being smart or opinionated or just for being female … and for any man who doesn’t understand why we still need feminism. (Thanks Tamie for putting me on to this!)
* For any men still wondering, there IS an International Men’s Day (November 19) but thanks for reading to the end to find out! In many places around the world it’s also pretty much International Men’s Day tomorrow, and Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday ….