On 08 March annually, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. The push for women’s rights began in 1909. The 1945 United Nations Charter was adopted by world leaders including an emphasis on “equal rights of men and women“, and promotion of women’s human rights was agreed as the responsibility of all governments. The United Nations officially began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1977.
Nevertheless, the world largely continues to operate under patriarchal ideology, which tends to fight the key principle of gender equality as it justifies male dominion over women. One would rightly wonder why the International Women’s Day commemorations are important if there is still a visible gap in gender equality. While no country in the present day has achieved gender equality, discussions on women’s rights continue to attract international attention. This is because women constantly face significant challenges in all spheres of their lives. For instance, women still face inequality in family life, legal, civil and financial matters including discriminative practices at the workplace. The majority of women still face bottlenecks accessing land and property and other inequality in the practice of nationality laws. Women are more at risk of sex and gender-based violence. Women have also participated in politics and leadership as their male counterparts but at relatively low levels.
Remarkable efforts to fight patriarchy and propagate women’s rights have over time produced significant political commitments. The enactment of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979 boosted the journey towards gender equality and provides women with the tools to address inequalities. The Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 further recognize women’s equality as a driver of change by ensuring that gender dimensions are integrated into public policies.
More than 100 years later, gender quality and women’s rights are yet to be achieved to preferred levels. Therefore, the world must continue to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of ordinary women playing extraordinary roles in the realization of women’s rights. This will help keep track of efforts made and address bottlenecks arising in the global fight for gender equality.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World. Women continue to face inequality challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of women in the pandemic as they stand at the core of recovery efforts at home and in the community at large.
There is a pressing need to ensure women’s participation in planning and decision making in the COVID-19 response. Our governments need to act inclusively by ensuring that decision-making platforms are gender-balanced and women at all levels have access to information to encourage their participation.
Today, men continue to predominantly own control over resources, both in public and private spheres that inhibit women’s participation in society. Therefore, to change these perceptions, men should participate in discussions that highlight the importance of women’s involvement in decision making and implementation both at community and national levels, especially in leadership and COVID-19 response.
As we assess how far the fight for gender equality has come, we should intentionally celebrate and take decisive actions to ensure that gender equality is achieved in our communities.