By: Juliana Hinton, Program Communications Coordinator
International Women’s Day is tomorrow, Wednesday March 8th, which began in the early 1900’s as become a global celebration of women and gender equality. Each year events or special activities are held across the world by participating organizations usually pertaining to a certain theme that is associated with a goal. To get an idea of what a theme might be, the theme chosen by the United Nations this year is, “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. This theme is in a way putting a microscope on the issue women around the world face everyday, unequal treatment and pay in the workplace. Not only that, but the UN is looking to amplify the stories of ordinary women who are doing great things for their communities and surpassing whatever roadblocks lie in their way. Not only in the workplace will women find prejudice and sexism but starting from a young age, access to an equal education is limited for many girls across the globe.
From a young age, many girls are expected to take care of household responsibilities like watching younger siblings, caring for elderly, cleaning, and cooking. In many cases the this time spent is more than double that of boys growing up. So, this often takes opportunities away from girls such as fulfilling higher education, paid work, or civic and community engagement. Half the world’s population is women at 3.7 billion. Now imagine if half the world’s population stopped participating in the socio-economic system. What would that look like? Not only is tomorrow International Women’s Day, but it’s also “A Day Without Women” in which women internationally will participate by showing the impact and value that women have on everyday society. It’s a powerful idea in which women of every race and ethnicity can participate and show solidarity by doing the following (if possible):
- Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
- Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
- Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman
An event such as this will obviously be easier for those with salaried or living wage paid jobs in which missing a day of work is economically feasible for them. Where, “Women account for nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers in the US, and women of color account for more than half of those earning minimum wage or less.” Which some have critiqued as another way in which feminism still isn’t united until it is inclusive. This is a valid concern and something to consider while planning future days of strike.
Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights. This principle continues the idea that without a society in which every single woman has equal access to opportunities, than that is no society at all. For example the UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, mentions, “…the average gender wage gap is [23%] but this rises to [40%] for African American women in the United States. In the European Union, elderly women are 37 per cent more likely to live in poverty than elderly men.” This discrimination is systemic, it’s historic, and it is ignored as a serious issue that, like a stone in a pond, has negative consequences across generations. It is calculated that, “women could increase their income globally by up to [76%] if the employment participation gap and the wage gap between women and men were closed. This is calculated to have a global value of USD 17 trillion” Not only do women deserve equal pay because it is our Human Right as so, but it would drive global, and especially local, economies.
In agriculture, particularly in developing countries, women make up 43% of the labor force and therefore have a huge impact on its success. The UN has found that even though the percentage varies in regions, women are a driving force for not only strong economies in urban areas but also rural. Even with this fact, though, “Women farmers control less land than do men, and also have limited access to inputs, seeds, credits, and extension services . Less than 20 per cent of landholders are women . Gender differences in access to land and credit affect the relative ability of female and male farmers and entrepreneurs to invest, operate to scale, and benefit from new economic opportunities ” (UN). In U.S. agriculture, women are often denied equal pay, discriminated against or harassed and abused in the work place. In an industry where about 6 in 10 workers are undocumented, it is often hard for them to speak out about the abuses because of fear of deportation or being fired.
Societal pressures and walls are constantly being built around girls to act, look, or speak a certain way but even with all this, there are those who persevere and clear a path for generations to come. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, had this to say “…Women’s rights over their own bodies are questioned and undermined. Women are routinely targeted for intimidation and harassment in cyberspace and in real life. In the worst cases, extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and single them out for sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and virtual enslavement.” This statement could not be closer to the reality of how deep the control over women is, where even in the legislative system laws are created often by men, regarding women’s bodies, without women’s consent. We live in a world that continues to be deeply rooted in patriarchy but is changing, being uprooted, by popular demand. We have voices and we will continue to speak until our last breath.