International Women’s Day: Why the fight for women’s rights is still necessary
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There’s so much to celebrate on International Women’s Day this year, but we’ve still got a way to go, says Emily Cotton.
Nowadays, there’s a day for everything… There’s National Popcorn Day on January 18, National Doodle Day on September 21 and even World Penguin Day on April 25. As a result, it would be pretty easy to put International Women’s Day which is celebrated every year on March 8 into the same category; a day that raises awareness through a few cleverly captioned social media posts, but doesn’t achieve a whole lot else.
But this is far from the case.
Recognised across the globe, International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women, while simultaneously making a stand against the inequalities that are still apparent between genders.
Ideally, we shouldn’t need a day to remind us of the value of women. But judging by the continuing pay gap, sexual harassment scandals and power structures disadvantaging women worldwide, we do. So in reality, the day is still of great importance and we still celebrate it because the day’s original goal (from way back in 1911) – to achieve full gender equality for women worldwide – has still not been achieved.
Despite the fact that women have been battling for what seems like forever, they have not given up. And this year it has been no different, with women from all corners of the globe being at the forefront of ground-breaking activism. Gina Martin, for example, began her crusade against upskirting in 2017, after experiencing the trauma herself. Her petition to make this act of taking a photograph underneath another person’s clothing without their knowledge or consent a crime gained 50,000 signatures within days, and after 18 months of endless campaigning, Gina was triumphant when upskirting was finally made a criminal offence in England and Wales in January this year. And women have shown their strength battling other issues too, including overturning Ireland’s abortion ban in 2018 and the introduction of the #FreePeriods movement.
There are so many more phenomenal social, economic, cultural and political gains that women have made in recent years, and this will only accelerate even more with time. But if you want to help now, there are things you can do.
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Firstly start by identify what gets your blood boiling. No matter how much we’d like to, us women can’t fix everything that’s wrong in the world in one go. But if we know what we’re passionate about – whether that’s closing the gender pay gap, supporting refugee women or getting more women into parliament for example – it will allow us to find the information and tools we need to make a start. One of the most empowering things we can do as women is to educate ourselves about the many women’s issues that may be outside of our own experiences, and stand in solidarity with those whose voices are even more marginalised than our own.
Oh, and for all the men likely to moan, please realise that asking “when’s International Men’s Day?” is pretty much the same as asking “when’s my birthday?” instead of saying “happy birthday” to someone else. Don’t put a downer on someone else’s day just because it isn’t focused on you. And yes, you have your own day… November 19.