It’s International Women’s Day! For some, it’s time to celebrate women’s achievements - whether they be sporting, cultural, economic, social or professional. For others, today is a call-to-action: a reminder and an incentive to press for progress. For the feminist club at one of our partner schools, it is both.
Alumna of our flagship teaching and leadership programme, Alexandra McIntyre, is in her third year of teaching English. Among other things in her school community, Ali is running a feminist club, and today, they have been celebrating International Women’s Day. “Happy Women’s Day from our Feminist club to yours! This is our school’s first year of an established feminist club (I like to believe there are already lots of unofficial groups of young feminists around the school years before now) and what better time than now? With the public eye focussed on pay gaps, gender equality and the #MeToo movement, it is so important that we provide our students with a safe and non-judgemental platform to explore, question and debate these issues.” In that spirit, we'd like to share an opinion piece written by one of its members, Freya.
Women’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and the progress in women’s rights over the past year. An archaic law that allowed men accused of rape to get away with their crimes if they married the individual they raped was repealed in the Middle East. It is now legal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. The total ban on abortion in Chile was overturned, and abortion is now legal in three cases. Many films have come out directed by women and with women in lead roles, such as Wonder Woman, Ladybird and A Wrinkle in Time.
Although these changes and representation are amazing, we still have far to go. Women’s Day is meant to celebrate our achievements, but it is also for shining a light on issues that are still being dealt with. It is important to actively seek out, and demand, progress, rather than expecting it to happen without action. We must unite and be inclusive and sensitive to all people and their problems. We must strive to reach new frontiers in the subject of women’s rights worldwide, and we must create a world where all genders and sexes are equal and accepted. We must challenge stereotypes and biases and stay strong in the face of bigotry. We need to encourage and nurture young girls who are interested in STEM. We need to give more attention to female athletes and raise them up so that they are on par with their male counterparts.
We cannot be scared to speak up, we must demand equality, and protest our injustices. Progress does not happen overnight. Just because we have made it this far, it does not mean we should settle. We must stand up for what we believe, we must stand up for ourselves and for those who don’t have a voice. We must create a space where people can be heard and their problems will be acknowledged and fixed rather than denied and dismissed. We need to educate people, teach them about feminism and women’s achievements, reintroducing women into history, painting them back in where before they were erased. But we also need to look inside the feminist movement and make sure that there is no discrimination from within as well as from outside. We must lead by example and be accepting of everyone as a woman and part of the movement no matter the gender they were assigned at birth, their race, their age or their sexuality. We must continue our fight because there are still child brides. Because girls are still too scared to go to school in Pakistan. Because in Yemen women only count as half a witness in court. Because in Israel, women cannot choose to get divorced. Because in Cameroon and Guinea men have control over their wives professions. Because sons inherit twice as much as daughters in Tunisia. Because Russia’s gender-equality legislation, that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, has been pending for over 13 years.
We have made so many advancements in the field of women’s right, but we must continue to press for progress.
As a fourteen-year-old girl living in the twenty-first century, I have experienced very few major infringements on my rights as a human being, but this also means that the smaller, more hidden inequalities are more visible to me. The wage gap, casual sexism and sexual harassment, as well as the plight of women in third world countries are my generation’s priorities. Although we have made it this far, it does not mean that our fight is any less important. With movements such as #MeToo and Times Up, there has been a lot of media coverage around feminist issues. With each generation, we are a step closer to gender equality. Although the massive issues have been overcome, at least on a surface level, we must challenge the deeply ingrained root systems that continue to exist in our society. We are working on creating equal opportunities for women as well as challenging prejudices.
In the end, Women’s Day is a day for the celebration of women and their achievements without regards to divisions. No matter political alliance, race, religion or sexuality, Women’s Day should act as a uniting force, bringing together women from all walks of life together to celebrate our achievements and progress and most importantly one another.