Every year on 8 March we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). This day is a commemoration of the women’s rights movement and an opportunity to celebrate achievements and those who work relentlessly to make gender equality a reality. It is also a call-to-action.
This year’s IWD campaign theme, #PressforProgress is a call to press forward and progress gender parity further by building on the momentum created by the many impactful initiatives that have emerged globally, such as She Decides or MeToo. This is imperative for the road ahead is still long.
200 years to gender equality?
According to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, we are over 200 years away from gender equality. So although progress has been made in many areas, women continue to suffer forms of discrimination in many countries across the globe; from child and early marriage, forced marriage, gender-based violence, as well as barriers to participation in education and employment.
We are still far from equality and threats are constant. For example the Global Gag Rule not only freezes funding to aid organisations providing family planning services globally, but it also causes a ‘chilling effect’ on advocacy for safe abortion and post-abortion services, actively contributing to the emergence of more regressive mentalities and policies.
Rural and urban activism
In support of this year’s call-to-action, the United Nations launched its official IWD theme, Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban. This draws attention to the power of activism but also particularly to the rights and activism of rural women. These represent over a quarter of the world population but are often left behind. According to the UN, rural women are worse off than rural men or urban women. While the global pay gap between men and women stand at 23 per cent, in rural areas, it can be as high as 40 per cent. They lack infrastructure and services, decent work and social protection, and are left more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
This is particularly important to fight the widening gap in access to sexual and reproductive health care the UNFPA reported last year, and the US funding cuts to family planning services that affect women in rural areas most. Supporting women’s rights has never been more important, or strategic.
Women’s rights are human rights
Women’s rights and gender equality are central to building a fairer, more sustainable society. There is much evidence to suggest that empowerment and education of women in all parts of the world would help with poverty reduction, effective distribution of resources – whether food, healthcare, or education – improved family planning and the mitigation of climate change. The evidence also shows that when given the choice, women tend to chose to have smaller families and when given access to contraception, they use it.
Supporting women’s rights means actively building a fairer, more sustainable society. You can read more about women’s rights here.
Women’s empowerment and gender equality are essential for sexual and reproductive health, economic development, population stabilization and mitigating climate change. We therefore support women’s rights and programmes to improve the status of women.