Taking stock on International Women’s Day

I am currently editing a fantastic book that seeks to empower women by freeing them from the chains of needing to seek affirmation constantly and looking for the answer to the question Am I Beautiful? It reminds us that as women made in the image of Beauty itself, we are all indeed beautiful, so we need to learn to rise above all the pressures – self- and society- and culture-applied – to accept that. And it also urges us to remember that there are far too many bigger issues, far too many pressing needs, for us to simply be preoccupied with ourselves. We need to be able to move on and make a difference, to be the world changers that women significantly seem to be. The brilliant author, Chine Mbubaegbu, cites some UN statistics:

‘There are 900 million women and girls facing extreme poverty. Women own just one per cent of the world’s wealth, we earn just 10 per cent of the world’s income and half a billion of us can’t read or write.’ And yet, it is being recognised around the world by governments and development agencies that women certainly make a huge difference when given the chance. That, while we earn less than men generally, when we do work we reinvest 90 per cent of it into the health, nutrition and educational needs of our families – as opposed to the 30–40 per cent of men that do so.

Chine’s citation of such facts and figures whetted my appetite so I went in search of more on the UN website. And found some other interesting ones:

  • Over the years women have begun to enter various traditionally male-dominated occupations, but are still rarely employed in jobs with status, power and authority or in traditionally male blue-collar occupations.
  • Women are still under-represented among legislators, senior officials and managers, craft and related trade workers and plant and machine operators and assemblers.
  • Specifically, women are still under-represented in national parliaments, where on average only 17 per cent of seats are occupied by women.
  • There is a persistent gender pay gap everywhere – while it has begun to close slowly in some countries it is still unchanged in others.
  • Despite all these changes, women still continue to bear most of the responsibilities around the home: caring for children and other dependents, preparing meals and doing other housework. Around the world, women spend twice as much time – at least – as men on unpaid domestic work.

While all of these facts start to get me riled, it is the information about violence against women that angers me the most. This is a UNIVERSAL phenomenon – not just occurring in so-called under-developed nations but right under our noses here in the West too. Our ‘developed’ nations can hide some horrific secrets under the surface. Charities such as A21 have done a great job in raising our awareness of such issues as human trafficking but there is so much more that can – and should – be done.

I was horrified to read the following in the UN stats report The World’s Women 2010: ‘In many regions of the world, longstanding customs put considerable pressure on women to accept being beaten by their husbands, even for trivial reasons. Whether for burning the food, venturing outside without their husband, neglecting children or arguing with their husband, in quite a few countries a very high percentage of women consider such behaviour sufficient grounds for being physically hit.’

Wake up women – and men – around the world! We are worth so much more. No one – absolutely no one – deserves to be treated with less respect than another. I hope on today, of all days, we can celebrate all that is good about womanhood and determine afresh to fight against the injustices that so many of our sisters in countries all around the world are facing right now.

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