International Women’s Day (IWD) becomes that much more important during a time where women have been displaying so much power. From stepping forward to saying “time’s up” for sexual assault to protesting in women’s marches all across the world, they have shown they are a force to be reckoned with and aren’t just going to sit still and look pretty.
Celebrated on March 8, IWD was first officially recognized in 1911 in countries such as Austria and Denmark; it wasn’t recognized by the United Nations until 1975. While the day is used to commemorate the accomplishments of women throughout history, it also allows for women’s issues to be brought into the limelight.
It’s not uncommon to see people arguing that gender equality has “already been achieved, so what women’s issues are there to worry about?” I wonder what it’s like to be so small-minded.
Per the Global Gender Gap Report from 2017, at current rates it will take 100 years to close the overall gender gap; for economic equality, it’s estimated to take 217 years. Both of these estimates are actually backsteps from the 2016 report.
“So you mean to tell me we’ve stepped BACKWARDS in reaching gender parity?” Good observation skills! The estimation implies that equality won’t be reached until at least our grandchildren exist, if not our great grandchildren.
“Well, it may take 100 years for global gender equality, but the U.S. is already equal.” This is where you’re wrong - according to the Global Gender Gap Report, the country with the most gender parity is Iceland, who has closed more than 87 percent of their gender gap. The United States ranks in as 49 out of 144 countries so try again, my friend.
Part of the problem with trying to close the gender gap is our tendency to only focus on domestic women’s issues. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa rank as having some of the largest gender gaps. They also struggle with issues that aren’t necessarily as prevalent in the United States.
The countries with wider gender gaps tend to be developing countries. Many struggle with sanitation and providing adequate reproductive and health care to women, among other issues such as female genital mutilation, gender-based violence and child marriage.
If people took the time to educate themselves on these struggles and find ways to either speak out about them or provide aid, it’s possible that the gender gap could be closed sooner rather than later. One way to do this is to simply read about these issues, either by Googling yourself to death or picking up some physical books from the local library. By reading up on the struggles different women across the world face, you’re more knowledgeable and can gage just how involved you want to be in helping the cause.
Other ways to involve yourself include supporting and donating to women’s rights organizations who provide things like health care and shelter in developing countries or refugee programs that allow women and girls from war-torn countries to resettle in more stable environments. By enabling women to have access to these resources and opportunities, you can help them step that much closer to gaining equality.
A more “radical” way to get involved would be to actually volunteer - work in women’s centers, teach English, or work with international human rights organizations that operate in these countries. Though as high school students this is a bit difficult, it’s possible to spend some time abroad in college - or afterwards - volunteering with these kinds of groups; you’d be putting yourself on the front lines in aiding these women.
Though IWD has already taken place, the discussion about women’s issues shouldn’t end there. It’s important that we keep both the domestic and international conversation going about how the gender gap can be closed and ultimately improve our society.