March 8th is International Women's Day. It's a day worth celebrating because it represents the long road women have traveled, and one we all must continue to travel, if gender equality is a realization we, as global citizens, truly wish to achieve.
A Long History of Inequality for Women
It's also an important day to acknowledge because, at this very moment, women experience true equality in zero countries (that's right...zero), at the same time that they contribute enormously to society in ways that are too frequently unrecognized, under-recognized, and undervalued.
Globally, in virtually every society, to greater and lesser degrees, women are denied the same regard, rights, and benefits men receive.
At the same time, however, it's undeniable that, on the whole, women have made enormous gains in moving closer to equality. But let's not rest on our laurels. As a collective, there are still many miles to walk.
Below is a selection of facts and statistics representing the current collective status of women.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Where Women Stand Today
- Approximately 50% the world's population is female, yet women make up 70% of the world's poor.
- Around 80% of the world's estimated 15 million refugees are women and children (2011 statistic).
- Of 41 countries surveyed in 2010 by the World Values Survey Association, in 17 of them, a quarter or more of those surveyed thought it was justifiable for a man to beat his wife.
- In every region of the world, there are laws that discriminate against women in relation to property, the family, employment, and citizenship.
- The global gender wage gap averages 16%, with more educated women frequently experiencing a larger wage gap than average when compared to men with similar education levels (now that's irony for you).
- In 1975, six percent more males than females had attained a bachelor's degree, while in 2010, 8% more females than males had attained a bachelor's degree.
- Women represent 51% of the nations PhDs, 51% of business school applicants, 67% of college graduates, and more than 70% of 2012 Valedictorians.
And this UN Women's 2011-2012 Progress of the World's Women report states that:
- 186 UN Member states have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
- 125 countries have outlawed domestic violence.
- 115 guarantee women equal property rights.
And yet, this same report observes that, "...although equality between women and men is guaranteed in the constitutions of 139 countries and territories, inadequate laws and loopholes in legislative frameworks, poor enforcement and vast implementation gaps make these guarantees hollow promises, having little impact on the day-to-day lives of women."
Which leads us to...
- This recent NPR story featured the increase of sexual assault and rape of women who participate in the uprising in Egypt. Adding insult to injury, a radical Salafi sheikh stated on an Arabic television channel that reaches millions of people that, "these women who get raped are goons, devils with no shame, and no men to hold them back from shameless acts." Several Islamist legislators in the upper house of Egypt's parliament have concurred that if women don't want to get raped, they shouldn't go to protests.
- Annually, thousands of women are killed or harmed in honor killings or honor-related crimes that are the result of "family collaboration." Some of these killings occur because a woman is raped, and then blamed for bringing shame to her family.
- The World Health Organization estimates 140 million girls and women worldwide live with the consequences of female genital mutilation.
- Women around the world are victims of acid attacks. Among other things, they have been attacked over dowries, for not wearing proper attire, or for daring to exercise independence.
- Female infanticide is practiced in both developed and developing countries. In China and India, especially, the practice is alive and well.
Celebrating International Women's Day:
On March 8th, join others all around the globe in celebrating women for who they are, what they've achieved, and to acknowledge the progress that still needs to be made in treating women as equal members of society.
In several countries, International Women's Day is an official holiday. But even if you live in a country that doesn't officially recognized this day, you can take a moment, or an hour, an afternoon, or the whole day, to celebrate the women in your life. (Women, this means celebrating each other and yourselves, so go do something to celebrate yourself!)
And remember that, ultimately, gender equality is not just for women. It benefits everyone. When men and women can truly stand side by side as equals, we all gain.
- Learn more about International Women's Day 2013.
- Check out the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women website. The agency was just created in 2010!
- Read more on why gender equality is important on the United Nations Population Fund's website.
Photo from: thewhirlingblog.com