Why We Have An International Women’s Day

By Lois Gilhooly

International women’s day. Recently I have been witness to the obscene controversy surrounding this amazing day. It has been dubbed ‘International Moan day’ and has been met with ‘Where’s international Men's day?’, ‘It’s oppressive to males!’ And the occasional ‘It is further us from equality by separating men and women’. What makes this more disgraceful is that these are just the ones that I’ve heard myself. This day was created by the UN on the basis of celebrating women, something that would have been unheard of when my Grandmother was my age. The facts are this day is needed to for two main reasons. 


The first being a celebration. This day is dedicated to women because in the space of 100 years alone we have progressed so far. We gained the vote, had the first female Prime Minister and are currently in the time of another, women’s education is just as valued as males, paternity leave has become more widely acceptable, and women have been to space. 


More recently millions of women marched in 2017 to take a stand for their rights, women are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, Serena Williams won the Australian Grand Slam while pregnant, the #MeToo campaign skyrocketed, Wonder Woman became a top grossing film and Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is a 50/50 split between men and women. All these achievements deserve to be celebrated and International Women’s day is when we can and we can show everyone worldwide how far we have come. 


The second is raising issues which affect women on a wider platform and giving them the attention they deserve. This day promotes this as it is international and therefore allows us to not only raise issues which concern ourselves but those of others around the globe that are still overlooked even now. Examples of these are easily found with Chinese girls being twice as likely to die in their first year of life as boys  and an estimated 12 million unborn baby girls being deliberately aborted in India over the last three decades. Other traumatic examples are the fact that officials in China are given a financial incentive to meet abortion and sterilisation quotas, 40% of both Israeli and Arab women aged 16-48 report being victim of IPV (intimate partner violence). Even still, despite how far women have come and how much we have proven that we are capable of medieval practises like child marriage still occur around the globe with girls being five times more likely to be submitted to child marriage than boys worldwide. The most affect area by this archaic tradition is Central and and West Africa where 4 in 10 are married before the age of 18 and among all child brides 1 in 3 are married before they are even fifteen years old.  

If we take a look more closer to home in the Western Hemisphere there are still issues that need addressing, all be those less extreme but that does not make them irrelevant. The issues that face us are that of social inequality and vulnerability due being born a female such has period poverty, the new abortion law amendments, unequal pay and the threat of sexual assaults. It is disgraceful that in a first world country 1 in 10 girls aged 14-21 in Britain cannot afford sanitary products and as a result of this a charity that provides free sanitary products to Kenya, Freedom4girls had to direct one of it’s shipments of sanitary products to Leeds in the UK. 

Even more so, a certain Abortion (Foetus Protection) Bill is currently making its way through the House of Lords which infringes on our rights as it reduces the time for a women to legally get an abortion to 12 weeks. At the moment the time limit is 24 weeks to get a legal abortion. This is a clear example of an overstep on women’s rights and a stripping of freedom of choice over her own body.

 And to bring up the most despised word ‘Gender Pay Gap” which I can tell you is no ‘myth’ despite it being against the law. Earlier this year when Carrie Gracie resigned from her position as China editor for the BBC due to a gender pay gap for international editors. It came to her attention that the BBC’s two male international editors earn ‘at least 50% more’ than the female international editors as they were on the list that the BBC was made to publish stating who earned over £150,000, of which both the male US editor and Middle East editor where featured but no the female Europe Editor or China Editor.   


Another injustice to everyone is sexual assault, I am well aware that this monstrosity affects all genders but this does not exclude the fact that women are more likely to have experienced this. As of last year women have been more likely a victim of sexual assault by 3.1% compared with men which is only 0.8% in England and Wales . This is true for all types of sexual assault, with the exception of sexual assault by a family member, where there was no significant difference.  This issue of vulnerability, especially female when it comes to assault has never been more prominent with the discovery of Larry Nassar’s multiple accounts of sexual assults with one-hundred fifty six women who testified against Nassar and the Harvey Weinstein Hollywood sandal with him taking the superiority of position to mean that he could sexually assault numerous women.                                                


This is why I find it insulting to women all over the globe when someone wrongfully dubs international women’s day. This monumental day is for women to come together and celebrate how far we’ve come and address where we have not. It is not a day of misandry or making ourselves superior to anyone, it is a positive change and a move towards ending inequality and injustice based on gender in our society.