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The truth about celebrating women on International Women’s Day

  • March 8, 2024
  • 5 min read
The truth about celebrating women on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) is upon us again this Friday, 8th March. We celebrate and commemorate the cultural, political, and socio-economic achievements of women all around the world. Sounds ideal, right?

This observation goes back to the early 1900s when the first National Women’s Day was observed across the United States in 1909. That’s 115 years to date and counting.

By the sixties, IWD re-emerged as a day of activism, taken up by second wave feminists.

In the 1970s-and-1980s-women’s groups were calling for equal pay, equal economic opportunity, equal legal rights, subsidised childcare, and the prevention of violence against women.

The United Nations celebrated IWD for the first time in 1975, not quite 50 years ago.

Fast-forward to the 2000s and there’s no denying that we have more women in boardrooms, running companies, successful entrepreneurs, more equality in legislative rights, although I’d argue that the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, is a major setback. Despite this, women are role models in all aspects of life and are challenging gender stereotypes in the workplace and outside of it. There are female engineers, astronauts, prime ministers, vice presidents, and more. Females are thriving in schools and universities; we can work and have a family. Yet there remains much work to be done. There are enduring disparities in the gender pay gap, in health, safety, and we need more women in politics and the workplace. The coronavirus pandemic has also impacted women’s rights, and violence against women is far worse than that of men.

It begs the question – have we made any or much progress? The stats paint a bleak picture:

  • An estimated 1.6 million women experience domestic abuse each year in the UK (ONS).
  • 43% of young women in London have experienced harassment on the street (UN).
  • Child marriage kills more than 60 girls every day, due to childbirth related deaths.
  • Over 200 million girls are forced into marriage around the world each year before the age of 15 (UNICEF).
  • Women make up on 25% of national parliamentarians worldwide (UN Women).
  • Women are disproportionately affected by poverty, making up 70% of the world’s poor (UN).
  • Around 130 million girls worldwide are out of school (UNESCO).
  • Women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people (UN Women).
  • Educated women are more likely to have greater decision-making power within their households (UN Women).
  • Women are paid less than men. The gender wage gap is estimated to be 20 per cent (UN WOMEN).
  • Women shoulder a disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work (UN WOMEN).
  • On the current trajectory, by 2050 women globally will still be spending nearly 2.5 more hours per day on unpaid care work than men (UN WOMEN).

Bear in mind I’ve cherry-picked the above from what feels like an endless list. It’s crystal clear that we need change and it’s not happening fast enough. We still need IWD, and we’ll continue to need it until all women have equality, safety, and dignity, coupled with a life free of violence and oppression.

This week in the Guardian alone: There could be as many as 130 “hidden homicides” a year in England and Wales, in which women are murdered by a partner or family member but their deaths were officially recorded as accidental or suicide.

More than 40 women from the financial services industry shared their stories during a closed-door session in the House of commons Treasury committee’s Sexism in the City inquiry, which was partly prompted by sexual harassment allegations against the hedge fund boss, Crispin Odey.

An “incredibly vulnerable” girl held in a young offender institution was pinned down and stripped by an all-male group of officers on at least two occasions, a watchdog has discovered. They did not ensure a female officer was present, according to a report.

Are we celebrating yet?

I keep telling myself we are making strides, particularly in my community, and that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. I’ve become less afraid to defend my gender if called for, and that’s not to say I’m burning my bra at every opportunity – I need it seeing as my breasts seem to be heading South these days; more that I am eager to do my bit for change-making. I am proud to be a woman that supports other women as well as all others.

I am hopeful that we are heading in the direction of a world where every woman and girl is seen and has a voice, whilst living a life free of harassment. A life with equal pay and fairer representation.

I support whatever it takes for women to have an equal footing in all aspects of life, I don’t think that is asking for too much. If one gender can have it, then it is within the realms of possibility.

Most of all, I look forward to a time when we no longer need to specifically celebrate by gender – rather that we celebrate each other and everyone as equals every day, all around the world.

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Rupi Sagoo

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