The struggle for women’s rights and equality continues despite of the past victories in some countries. Women remain marginalized and oppressed in some cultures. Although women won the rights for suffrage in many countries like those in Europe and North America, women are still disproportionately represented in high government positions. Women are also economically disenfranchised that they generally have lower compensation at work compared to men. Women have lesser chance of being promoted to high corporate positions compared to men.
Politics in general is still a male-dominated sphere. Even in supposedly liberal and economically advanced countries, women are a minority in politics. For example, as of January 2019, women in the U.S. House of Representatives are only 23.4% of the 435 total U.S. congressional district representatives. The U.S. never had a woman president. On a global scale, there are only 27 elected women heads of government who are incumbent out of 195 countries in the world.
Meanwhile, the business world, women do not fare any better. Based on a 2018 survey conducted by the Forbes’s Magazine, women chief executive officers represent a mere 5% of the total number of CEO’s for the top 500 global corporations. In 2018, working women earn only 77.9 cents per 1 dollar earned by men. This means that the median salary of women is 22% lower than the median salary of men.
The gender gap does not stop in politics and business. It extends to other aspects of life such as cultural, social and religious. For instance, abuses against women such as in the case of the so-called “honour killings” in Pakistan are culturally ingrained in some societies.
Other examples of culturally sanctioned abuses against women are the following:
• circumcision and genital mutilation practiced in some African countries such as in Somalia (98% prevalence) and Egypt (91% prevalence);
• domestic violence against women as acceptable practice in some countries;
• arranged marriage of girls (some are as young as six years old) with older men in less developed countries such as in Indonesia, India and Nepal;
• and sexual commercialization or prostitution, which is legally allowed in some European countries.
Women are still not given equal opportunities to study and better themselves in many societies today. They are considered as second-class citizens whose main duty is to bear and raise children for men. Even if they earn high academic degrees and pursue careers, they are discriminated at work in terms of promotions and compensation.
Various national and international initiatives by different organizations have been initiated to pursue gender equality and end all forms of discriminations against women. Laws are enacted; treaties are signed but the struggle continues. Changing the culture of societies and mindset of people is more difficult than legal and political interventions.
The annual observance of the International Women’s Day on March 8 highlights the triumphs of the women equality movement in various social spheres. It is also a continued call for public awareness and actions in furthering the cause.
Celebrating International Women’s Day has special significance in terms of historical milestone in women’s rights movement. However, the date itself is somewhat arbitrary. It should be noted that the first celebration of the International Women’s Day can be traced back to February 28, 1908 in New York City. It was a day of protest by 15,000 textile workers who marched to demand reforms on wages, hours of work and voting rights. The year after the mass demonstration, the Socialist Party of America celebrated the first National Women’s Day. The first celebration of the even internationally was held on March 19, 1910 in Copenhagen During the International Socialist Woman’s Conference.
It was in 1914 that March 8 was finally selected as the date for the observance. That day was a Sunday, making it convenient for women to participate in marches and events. Meanwhile, it was in Russia that the date was declared a holiday as tribute to women after granting women the right to vote in 1917. The United Nations eventually adopted the day in 1977, making it a worldwide celebration.
NOTE: This article is republished from the article I have written online for the It All Counts organization - https://www2.itallcounts.org/observances/international-days/global-struggle-for-womens-rights-and-equality-not-over/?