By Julia Luise Tiemens
Women’s rights are to this day a highly debated and controversial topic. Recurring issues such as the gender pay gap, sexual and domestic violence or discrimination are being fought by many every day and have been central for many years. The International Women’s Day celebrates women all around the world every year on the 8th of march. It is an attempt to call attention to the fight against these issues, where change has been long overdue.
The 2023 Women’s Day of the United Nations followed the motto “Digitalisation for everyone: Innovation and Technology for the equality between the genders”. The background is that in a variety of countries, women are still disadvantaged in terms of technological access and education. This includes that they are not being taught the usage of modern technologies. Figures talk about way less women being able to use the internet than men, especially in Arabic and African countries. A big reason for this is the missing financial and technical resources. This adds up to the increased digital violence women are exposed to, which limits their professional potential in the job market and the opportunities they are being given in this field. The UN has now stated that this limits the growth of world economics majorly. Access to technological progress enables women to grow and be more independent. Further, many important and popular people posted and publicly spoke for Women’s day. A good example is the famous author, founder of the Isha foundation and spiritual leader Sadh-Guru. He gave speeches about feminine leadership, from which we still witness too little. He states that what the world needs are women in leadership positions, who are not trying to act masculine and hide their feminine side but rather embrace it. Many others follow his example, calling attention to this issue, which in the end women’s day is about.
The celebration has its roots in the workers’ movements where people used to fight for better working conditions. In the turn from the 19th to 20th century, women were exploited majorly, especially in terms of factory work. In this environment, they had to suffer under animal-like conditions. Therefore, the central topics that caused unhappiness in the female population were better working conditions, the same wage for the same kinds of work, minimum wage and so on. In 1909 the first National Women’s Day was established in the United States. In the following year, the decision to have a yearly international day for the interest of women was made, based on the international socialist women conference held in 1910 in Copenhagen. The latter stood for the immobilization of women against exploitation and suppression. Essential points were the same rights for women and the right to vote. In 1911, we witnessed the first demonstrations to call on the requests regarding the right to work and the right to no discrimination in the workplace. Later on, the day of celebration was forbidden and instead Mother’s Day introduced. This was done to highlight the role of the woman as a mother and wife. In the 60s, Women’s day was reintroduced as a day that establishes solidarity between women from all political perspectives and that highlights worries and problems expressed by women.
The main issues that are being fought and brought to attention concern deprivation, wages, missing laws and violence. Women and girls are more often exposed to hunger, poverty and bad health supplies. In addition their right to education is often being ignored or not given the proper importance. Furthermore, women earn significantly less and are put into leadership positions less often. Although the gender pay gap has been shrinking continuously, it is still existent. This issue leads to the bigger problem of heightened women’s poverty and dependency (on the male partner) in relationships. Obviously, all of these issues are bigger in some areas of the world than in others. In Afghanistan and Iran, for instance, they have been structurally disadvantaged and discriminated against. Even though violence is aggravated in these areas, it is important to be aware that it does not only occur there
Violence is still a big part of many women’s everyday life. This violence occurs in many different forms, the most common forms include sexual or domestic violence. Common belief is often a victim of wrong facts such as this kind of violence only occurring far away from us and in socially weak or developing countries. Although the extent is often concentrated in these countries, sexual violence takes place everywhere. Take the example of Germany, a first-world, safe and stable country. In Germany, every third woman has experienced sexual or physical violence at least once in their life, according to the German Ministry of Family Affairs (BMFSFJ – Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend). These shocking figures include women of all ages and of all social layers. It is important to note that young girls and women with disabilities are especially at risk. Moreover, 143.604 people are victims of recurring violence in partnerships in 2021, 80% of them being women. While this is already a high number, researchers believe it to be way higher due to the many unreported cases. Cat-calling, sexual assault or being scared while walking the streets at night, are all considered relatively “harmless”, but ruin many girls’ days. Another form of violence that is still wildly common is genital mutilation: according to the UN, 200 million women suffer under these aspects annually. Also, femicides still happen on average every 11 minutes worldwide and too little measures against it have been taken. One of the reasons for this sad reality is the missing awareness. Another way violence has been used over the last century is as a weapon against women in war areas, in the form of mass rapings. This reached an extent to this sexual violence being accepted in politics, for example in the Russian wars. Since more and more attention has been drawn to sexual violence, empowerment campaigns are becoming more common. In 2017 the actress Alyssa Milano has tweeted about her experiences with harassment, inspiring followers to join her by tweeting their trauma under the #metoo. From the media industry to the Islamic room, there has been a lot of attention and support against these crimes: #metoo made women’s day in 2018 extremely special. This highlights how much a strong community can achieve in the fight against violence.
An ideal, we grow up with, is the image of a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination, that is regulated by diversity, equality and inclusiveness. In this context differences are valued and celebrated and #EmbraceEquity is emphasized. Women’s day has been centered around the thorough celebration of women’s rights, while taking action to drive gender parity. This is powered by the collective effort of all, demonstrating that it is possible to generate change only if everyone works together. Achievements include better conditions for mothers, marital rape being punished harder, laws that push for gender-neutral treatment and much more. In this sense, also the 2023 IWD (International Women’s Day) missions regard the achievement of equality and the visibility and happiness of women’s achievements, while at the same time calling out the inequalities still happening. The world Women’s Day highlights where solidarity is missing and where the community stands as tight as it can possibly be.
International Women’s day 2023 campaign theme: Embrace equity. International Women’s Day. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2023, from https://www.internationalwomensday.com/
Geschichte des Internationalen Frauentag. Arbeiterkammer Oberösterreich. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2023, from https://ooe.arbeiterkammer.at/interessenvertretung/frauen/internationaler_frauentag/Geschichte_des_Internationales_Frauentags.html
Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. (2023, March 9). Weltfrauentag am 8. März. bpb.de. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from https://www.bpb.de/kurz-knapp/hintergrund-aktuell/518803/weltfrauentag-am-8-maerz/
(www.dw.com), D. W. (n.d.). Weltfrauentag 2018: Was bringt #metoo?: DW: 08.03.2018. DW.COM. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from https://www.dw.com/de/weltfrauentag-2018-was-bringt-metoo/a-42858080