This week I am publishing my post earlier than expected because today is the International Women´s Day.
As you might know, I was a volunteer in India where I worked in the area of women´s empowerment. It was this work that made me understand why we need an International Women´s Day. The truth is that up until that time gender inequality was not an issue to me. At least that was what I thought.
Soon after arriving to the country I organized, together with my colleagues, the International Women´s Day in a village, but unfortunately only women and children were present. At that time I didn´t care. I was angry with Indian men because of the way they treated women, but I came to understand that women´s empowerment is not possible without men´s involvement and support.
In India there is a vicious cycle of violence against women, from their birth till their death. Infanticide, dowry related deaths (mainly kitchen “accidents”), widows abandoned by their families in holy cities having no other option except to beg, and so on. Despite the violence and discrimination I was surprised with one thing: women´s smile, the “stoic docility” Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn talk about in their book Half the Sky.
Discrimination against women can have many different forms, depending on where we were born. Besides what I mentioned before, I could also add the following:
- At least 200 million girls and women in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM)
- Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18
- Around 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age were out of school in 2013
- In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive
In the West women´s challenges are different, but they also need to be acknowledged and addressed. I am talking about:
- Unequal payment for equal work
- Lack of women in politics
- Glass ceiling on corporate boards of directors
- Gender gap in unpaid labor (a.k.a., household chores)
- Domestic violence
- Sexual harassment
The International Women´s Day is a day to remember that women around the world face violence and discrimination just because they are…women. So the question is: will we ever stop having an International Women´s Day?