In 1910 one hundred women from 17 different countries met at the International Women’s Conference and agreed to establish “International Women’s day”. The main aim was to promote equal rights, which were at the time denied in our country as well as many others where governments have over the last hundred years legislated to provide for equal access/freedoms to the likes of voting and equal pay.
The celebration continues annually, across the globe. It takes a different form in each country. In many countries it is an official holiday. In some countries it is a celebration of women generally, like Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. In others it is marked as the start of an historic strike by women or revolution. In Europe it has a far more political flavour. Political and human rights issues run strong in European countries where the United Nations themes dominate discussion. In the UK, our International Women’s day celebrations are varied but do tend to celebrate prominent womens’ achievements.
So, if the motivation behind the celebration was equal rights & those rights are now provided for in the UK where, in law, there is nothing which a man can do which a woman cannot, hasn’t the purpose been met and if so, why do we continue to celebrate the day?
Well, whilst the equal rights may have been legislated for the century long campaign is unfortunately not complete. Women may have equal rights in theory, but true equality is still something which, even in the UK, has yet to be accomplished. In the UK the fight for true equality continues, whilst in other countries still have a long battle ahead for rights, including the likes of voting and access to education or freedoms. We’re perhaps now even more part of a global society given the ease with which we can view the reality of life in other countries so the struggle continues as a global solidarity movement.
At home, the fact that women in the UK are still, on average, paid 19% less than men is astonishing. This problem appears to be as prevalent in Hollywood, where actor, Patricia Arquette called for equal pay when collecting an Oscar, as it is in Edinburgh. It is astonishing that almost 100 years since women gained the vote, we’re being told if strive for equal pay continues at the same rate we’ll wait another 70 years to reach the goal. There are many problems with equal pay legislation and that is just one area where inequality is highlighted.
So how can we expedite progress? I’d suggest as a starting point, it is important for men as well as women to be involved in discussions about pay and equality. Inequality is not a woman’s issue. Men are stakeholders too. We all have a responsibility to respect the fact that everyone, no matter their gender deserved to be remunerated for equal effort.
All male actors should demand that their female counterparts receive the same pay. Male CEO’s should ensure that there is no pay discrimination within their company. Male colleagues should call out any inequalities that they witness.
Inequality is the silent sister of discrimination. It cannot be defeated by a series of single battles. The war can only be won by all of society joining together and rejecting it entirely. This year the International Women’s Day theme is #Make it Happen, I implore you to do your part!