“Gender Equality is more than a Goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.” – Kofi Annan
Few weeks ago I tweeted this from my twitter account: “Women/Girls today are afraid to speak of women’s rights coz they are made to believe that #Feministsareugly & #Feminismisawful. This is #whyweneedfeminism”. That very instant I was bombarded with tweets from ‘haters’. I almost had a twitter war with a couple of people on the topic of Women’s Rights, for they vehemently opposed the movement. While I am a firm believer of the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinion, the reason most quoted for ‘hating’ Women’s Rights Activists did not seem rational. One told me that Feminists/Women’s rights groups are working too hard to pass ‘Sexist’ laws. Another person told me that the only thing Women’s rights activists do is protesting the MRA (Men’s Rights Activists). Revulsion for Women’s Rights Groups resonated in their words. Their animosity reminded me of why we even have a day called ‘Women’s Equality Day’ and this build up an urge in me to ‘explain’ to the so-called anti-feminists what this movement is all about.
Let me begin by telling you about Women’s Equality Day which is celebrated on August 26 every year. On this day in the year 1920, after more than 72 years of campaigning, Women in the US won the rights to Vote. Ever since various organizations were set up working for equal rights for women like National Organization for Women (NOW) in the US. Today, women’s equality has grown to mean much more than just sharing the right to vote. Organizations such as Equality Now and Womankind Worldwide continue to work to provide women across the globe with equal opportunities to education and employment, working against violence and oppression of women and against the discrimination and stereotyping which still occur in every society. The work these organizations do speaks volumes about the movement.
Over the last century women like Mother Teresa, Billie Jean King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, Amelia Hart, Oprah Winfrey, Coco Chanel and many many more have proved what they can achieve and what women are capable of, given the opportunity. The word ‘opportunity’ is of importance here, because opportunity does not come easy for tens of thousands of women. I am not saying that it is easy for men; I am saying that it in most societies it is easier for men as compared to women. Women in most societies are denied the opportunity simply for the fact that they are women. These women have to fight, they have to fight for their right to education, fight against sexual harassment, domestic violence and discrimination, for reproductive rights, for maternity leave, for equal pay, for almost everything!
Still confused about why we need Feminism/Women Rights Activists? Allow me to display some hard core facts.
- A United Nations statistical report compiled from government sources showed that more than 250,000 cases of rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually. The reported data covered 65 countries. Rape is used as a weapon of war in many developing countries.
- Approximately 28 countries in Africa, few in the Middle East, Asia and South America still practice the horrendous Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
- One third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18 and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15. If present trends continue, 150 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade. That’s an average of 15 million girls each year.
- In 2013, among full-time, year-round workers, women were paid 78 percent of what men were paid. In other words, women make about 78 cents to every dollar that a man makes, according to the AAUW. The pay gap hasn’t budged in almost a decade, and it’s worse for women of color. Hispanic women often make 54 percent of what white men make, on average, and black women make about 64 percent of white men’s earnings.
- Women’s bodies are still regulated by legislation that seeks to restrict their access to abortion— a right that was given to them decades ago by the Supreme Court. Some politicians even want to stop women from easily accessing birth control, which is part of a woman’s basic healthcare needs.
- The US ranks last in the world for paid maternity leave. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 12% of Americans have access to the paid maternity leave, which is considered a benefit by the employers.
- The list goes on and on and includes many small cultural things which I will not be getting into now (I will come back to that topic later).
I have been asked quite a few times if it is because of my past that I chose to support women’s rights issues! While, my past did play a small part in who I am today and what I support, that is not the only reason I chose to support Women’s Rights issues and Gender Equality.
I chose to support the movement because I realized that this is one of the most misunderstood causes, because most people talk about women empowerment but do nothing about it, because I realized that women’s empowerment starts in our own family and it is my responsibility as a mother to show my son what or who a woman is and can be!
Just like every drop of water in a sea grows into an ocean, every small thing you do to support this cause helps create an impact in a woman’s life. It may be meagre but it definitely matters. And that is exactly the reason why Women’s Rights matters to me! I recently received an invitation to make a video submission to the fantastic effort by the Group Women You Should Know. They are compiling a video message to the world on Why Women’s Equality Matters. If you wish to make a submission, shoot a short video of yourself to complete the sentence “Women’s equality matters to me because …..” and submit it HERE*. (*Note – Submissions deadline is Monday August 17, 2015 – sorry for the short notice I got to know only 2 days back when I got the invite from them).
While I rest my case I would like to point out that a person, whether a man or woman, who works for the betterment of women’s lives and works against the inferior status of women in our society is someone I call a true Feminist/Women’s Rights Activist. Having said that, I will now leave you to watch the viral video on Gender Equality by Emma Watson – the founder of HeforShe.
P.S I would like to thank @!shita for it is the title of Ishita’s blog post – Feminism and her art that inspired this post!