March 8 is the international day commemorating women’s cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements.
At least that’s the definition in the books. I was always annoyed by the way International Women’s Day was celebrated where I live. First of all, it feels like some tradition left behind from the socialist era that I could happily live without, and second, I don’t like to be celebrated for things I didn’t achieve myself. (I did not work to be a woman, I was born this way. Same with “namedays”, what are those for?) I don’t have anything against getting flowers, but I don’t like how most men think it’s a day in the calendar when they have to do that, but otherwise have no clue about the real significance behind it. (To anyone who might care: I’d be happier with a conversation about the important issues on this day.)
The real significance of March 8 would be to raise awareness to the overall state of women around the world, which is not great. Some places do better than others, but there is still a long way to go. And yes, there are many “cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements” that deserve celebration on the individual level, but I feel like no celebration is due worldwide until every girl in the world have a right to go to school, or until no woman would have to silently suffer violence from their husband just because they are married, or until there is no country where women don’t have financial or political rights on their own. I could go on with a long list. Here’s five disturbing facts on this International Women’s Day.
- In 2021, women earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. In most of the world we need multiple lifetimes to close the gender paygap. Even the most developed Western Europe will only get there in 52 years, North America in 61. In Eastern Europe it’s going to take 134 years! And these estimates were made last year without wars as major development setbacks in the picture.
- Worldwide one in three women experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their life. If we include sexual harrassment, the figure is even higher. According to a 2017 study, three out of five violent acts against women that results in death take place within the family, mostly committed by an intimate partner. That’s 2017, while we know how Covid worsened the situation! All this, because in many (even developed!) countries laws fail to protect women from domestic violence.
- There still are some African countries where girls are not or less likely to be registered at birth. Imagine living your life without any record of your existence, basically meaning you can disappear without any trace whatsoever. You would’t have access to anything that requires identification, most basic things like health care or education, you wouldn’t even be able to travel without a single document to show for yourself.
- While overpopulation is considered an even bigger obstacle for our future than climate change, many (even developed!) countries restrict women’s rights to make decisions about their reproductive health. Even in the US, there are states where it’s easier to go through the process of buying a gun, than to get a contraception prescribtion. To have or not to have children or when to have them is a decision every woman should be free to make.
- Although there are now countries with high rates of women in politics and decision making positions, the OECD average is still 31%. Among OECD countries, Hungary performs second-worst with 12%, but overall in the world there are a few countries below that number, even a couple with 0%.
I haven’t even touched upon education or the so called invisible work women do, so I could probably go on with all the not so favorable data much longer, but this is just enough to point out that there is a lot more to be done. Let’s all celebrate this day by knowing the facts and pledging to do what’s in our power to right wrongs, so that one day we can really say “Happy International Women’s Day” and mean it.