Today, Wednesday 8th March is International Women’s Day 2017. With its humble beginnings going as far back as 1911, International Women’s Day is regarded by most as a way to celebrate the economic, social and political achievements of women. And, although the world has made great strides toward gender equality, especially during the last several decades, major disparities between men and women still exist. Women from all walks of life still face disadvantages. Around the world women will earn on average only 60 to 75 per cent of men’s wages and are 65 per cent more likely to work in informal, and often unpaid, work. And for some this still appears to be perfectly acceptable, the idea of gender parity preposterous, proven several days ago during a discussion with members of the European Parliament. Politicians were debating the pay gap when Polish nationalist MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke shared his thoughts on the subject. He stated that,
“Of course, women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent. They must earn less, that’s all.”
This is shocking to say the least and until this conscious and unconscious bias is challenged and completely eradicated, women still have some way to go before they can truly observe a gender balanced society.
However, although there is still some way to go, women in more developed countries, in general, have come a long way. Sadly this is not the case for those living in countries still developing. Activists for women in developing countries tend to focus on more basic issues like combating violence against women and providing equal access to vaccines, basic healthcare, and primary education.
Therefore, as both a woman and mother of daughters, I feel compelled to acknowledge such an important day. I hope this post will help draw attention to some of the ongoing issues still experienced by women and eventually lead to a change in attitudes that find us living in a more gender-inclusive world. Unfortunately, the World Economic Forum predicts that the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186 and I for one don’t believe this is acceptable. I implore anyone who wishes to help bring about change to mark this day. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything big or grand, we all live busy lives but even the smallest gesture or acknowledgement can make a difference. You may even be rather surprised as to who takes note – like I was last year.
To mark IWD in 2016 I posted a tweet on my Twitter account of a quote by Malala Yousafzai:
“Extremists have shown what frightens them most: A girl with a book.”
Malala was shot in the neck and head by the Taliban in October 2012 in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. She was attacked because she advocated a girl’s right to an education; an idea that the Taliban fervently opposed. Malala was only 14-years-old at the time and amazingly, Malala survived. The extraordinary thing about my story though is how quickly my tweet was retweeted. I’d like to say it was all down to me for posting such a poignant message but the brilliant truth is it was mostly due to J.K. Rowling – and yes I do mean the writer! J.K Rowling retweeted my tweet and thanks to her that particular tweet now has 8,363 likes and has had 6,159 retweets, which only goes to show that sometimes even the smallest contribution or support towards change can have a far greater reach than you’d ever imagined.
If you do tweet some words of inspiration today, don’t forget to use the hashtag campaign theme #BeBoldForChange and if you’d like some more information about IWD you can take a look at their website here.
If you’d like to take a look at the video footage of Janusz Korwin-Mikke you can visit the BBC News (World) Twitter account here where you can also see the brilliant response to his statement by the Spanish Socialist member Iratxe Garcia Perez – go girl!