Happy International Women’s Day! Today is a day in which to celebrate women’s achievements. It is also a day in which to shine a light at the empowerment and advancement of women around the world.
History has provided us with a whole myriad of trailblazing women. Women who put others and the advancement of womens’ rights before their own safety.
Agnodice – 400BC
Agnodice is said to be one of the first female gynaecologists. Practising medicine in Greece at a time when doing so carried a death penalty!
Agnodice was caught but was allowed to continue seeing patients when these patients came to her defence.
Russian philanthropist Anna Filosofova co-founded a society in 1860 to support the poor and provide affordable housing and decent work for women.
Following the presentation of a petition with 32,000 signatures by suffragist Kate Sheppard, New Zealand became the first self-governing country to grant national voting rights to women in 1893.
Named as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century by Time Magazine in 1999, Emmeline Pankurst was a champion in championing votes for women.
In 1903, Ms Pankurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union an all-women suffrage advocacy organisation whose members received repeated prison sentences for their actions.
It was not until the passing of the Equal Franchise Act in 1928 that women in the UK were finally afforded the same voting rights as men.
Women in Egypt had an even longer wait for voting equality!
In 1951, Doria Shafik, together with another 1,500 women stormed into Egypt’s parliament demanding full political rights, pay equality and reforms on personal status laws.
These actions eventually helped pave the way to women’s right to vote in 1956.
Billie Jean King
In 1973 American tennis champion Billie Jean King threatened to boycott the U.S. Open unless women were given equal prize money.
Ms King’s demands were met and the U.S. Open became the first major tournament of its kind to offer pay equality. That being said, women only received equal prize money at Wimbledon and the Australian and French Opens as from 2007! And, despite this, this does not mean that women receive equal pay in all tournaments.
In May 2022 Iga Swiatek won the Italian Open and was awarded €322,280. Later that same day however, Novak Djokovic was awarded €836,355 for winning the men’s championship!
According to the International Labour Organization women globally continue to earn around 20% less than men for the same work.
Loveness Mudzuru & Ruvimbo Tsopodzi
In 2016, Loveness Mudzury & Ruvimbo Tsopodzi took their government to court.
As former child brides, Ms Mudzury and Ms Tsopodzi made history when Zimbawe’s Constitutional Court ruled in their favour holding that no one in the country could marry before the age of 18.
Shockingly, more than 700 million women alive TODAY were married before the age of 18. With 250 million of them having been married before the age of 15!
Progress But A Long Way To Go!
Whilst women’s rights have certainly come a long way, women’s work for equality is far from over.
Human Rights Violations Against Women
Since the Taliban entered Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, human rights violations against women and girls have only increased.
Whilst legally women have had the right to vote in Afghanistan since 1964, suffrage is just one of the female freedoms which the Taliban has withdrawn.
The Taliban is excluding women from public life. Women are no longer holding cabinet positions. And girls past the age of eleven or twelve are being banned from attending school.
Whilst women in Kabul in the late seventies could freely wear knee-length skirts and high heels, life today is terrifyingly different. Even though there are no legal restrictions on women’s dress code the reality of Taliban rule means that women are pressured into wearing a burka or to fully cover themselves.
Matters Still To Be Addressed
Issues such as equal pay, access to education and healthcare, and the elimination of violence and discrimination against women continue to affect millions of women worldwide.
So far we have spoken about equality however, this years’ International Women’s Day theme is #EmbraceEquity.
So, is the difference between equality and equity?
Equality means that each individual or group of people will be given the same resources or opportunities. Equity on the other hand recognizes that each individual has different circumstances and will allocate the resources and opportunities necessary so that everyone may achieve an equal outcome.
What Happens On International Women’s Day?
Events and activities will be held in countries around the world to both celebrate the achievements of women and to raise awareness about the work which still needs to be undertaken to achieve equity.
Check out International Women’s Day Event Search to find out if there are any events taking place near you.
Be A Women’ s Champion
There is one thing which I have always found shocking during my professional life and that is how, quite frequently, women fail to lift each other up!
We already swim against the tide to receive the same recognition as our male counterparts. Struggling at times to keep juggling all the areas in our life for which we are responsible. Why add to the uphill struggle by pushing female colleagues down?