March 8th is International Women’s Day, celebrated by the United Nations since 1975, and adopted by a UN resolution in 1977, as United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. It is a day to reflect on women’s progress, call for further change, and acknowledge the courage and determination of women working for gender equality around the world.
It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the struggles of women and girls the world over: struggles for education, for equality before the law, for access to basic services that men take for granted, such as access to banking, or training and adult education. In too many cases, women struggle for basic respect, and in the worst cases, they struggle to be seen not as the property of anyone, but as a free and independent person.
The fact is that although women and girls have made great strides in the past 41 years, they still have a long way to go. Nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men. The majority of the world's poorest people are women. And their work is less valued: they receive 30 to 40 percent less pay than men for doing the same work. Their lack of economic power sometimes translates to powerlessness in other aspects of their lives as well, where they disproportionally suffer from gender-based violence.
That is why this year’s theme is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. A part of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is an all-out push to implement a number of United Nations commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.
This includes goals such as ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere; eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls; stopping all practices specifically harmful to girls, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation; and ensuring that all girls and boys receive a quality primary and secondary education.
Any society hoping to flourish must begin by empowering its women, and by promoting for them the same rights that men already enjoy.
On International Women’s Day we celebrate and honor women and girls, and commit ourselves to making the world a place where women and girls are not excluded or marginalized, but are free to realize their full potential.