International Women’s Day is a Time for Reflection… and Hope

    International Women’s Day is a Time for Reflection… and Hope

    When 15,000 women marched through New York in 1908 they were there to take on the government and big business, demanding shorter working hours, better pay and voting rights. Fast forward over a century, and it might be fair to say that ‘two out of three ’aint bad’ but there is still work to do, in certain sectors, to close the gender pay gap.

    A year after the New York uprising the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Women’s Day and the 8th of March is now the day when the world celebrates the achievements of women through the ages, and looks to inspire the next generation of groundbreakers.

    The United Nations made the day official in 1975, the same year that the Sex Discrimination Act was passed in the UK Parliament, and the first theme adopted, in 1996, was ‘Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future.’ And for this year, the theme is ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,’ which aims to recognise and celebrate the contribution women can make to technology and online education.

    Great strides have been taken in all aspects of life but, as with every progressive movement, we take two step forwards and one step back. The plight of women in Iran has hit the headlines again as hundreds of cases of respiratory poisoning have been reported among schoolchildren, the majority of them girls. Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei has vowed to come down hard on those behind the poisonings. But, on the same day, Iran’s judiciary chief declared that women who violate the country’s Islamic dress code will be punished. Saying: “Authorities will use all available means to deal with the people who cooperate with the enemy and commit this sin that harms public order.”

    And there are plenty of areas in the Western World where women and girls get a poor deal. Here in the UK, despite teams of female athletes enjoying unprecedented media coverage and profile, particularly in football, the charity Women in Sport says that girls are still being pigeonholed as fragile, weak and less able to compete, leading them to believe they don’t belong in sport. 60 per cent of parents said their daughters felt excluded from physical activity and a quarter was told that ‘sport wasn’t for girls.’

    Try telling that to runner Keely Hodgkinson, the Olympic Silver medallist who has just broken the World Indoor 600m record and defended her European title at the age of 21. And try telling jockeys Rachael Blackmore and Holly Doyle that sport isn’t for girls, after they have spent years competing at the highest level, and on an equal footing with the best men, in horse racing.

    Music lovers will have noticed that Glastonbury has announced three male headliners this year, but it isn’t the only festival this year will an all male line-up, with just 13 per cent of headliners being women in 2023.

    That’s odd don’t you think?

    Government’s need to legislate, of course they do. And in November the European Parliament passed a law to ensure that more women are represented on publicly traded boards by 2026, while Spain passed laws to support menstrual health leave and extended access to abortion. And away from the sphere of government intervention, the International Olympic Committee reported the most gender balanced winter games with women making up 45 per cent of competitors at Beijing 2022.

    So there is good news and bad news for women, and ever was it thus. The world is a better place than it was in 1908 and there is much to be hopeful about. Still plenty of work to do though…

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