Are we there yet?
What will it take for women to be equal to men? Is gender equality an anomaly? What’s the benchmark when it comes to equality? Is there something beyond equality that women are trying to achieve? What about hidden biases or prejudices against women?
Such questions often run through my mind — whenever I am cooking while my family waits for me to serve (is it my job to cook?); whenever I see my salary slip and think of the wage gap publically spoken up against by women actors; whenever I am reading a book like The Color Purple or The Handmaid’s tale that paint a realistic yet deplorable picture of women; when I am in the toilet using a sanitary pad (often contemplating why only women have to go through this); or when I come across a news piece on rape, sexual assault or an article related to gender parity, uniformity or just women in general.
Uber’s Susan Fowler’s blog, allegations against Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, women protesting against Trump’s presidential inauguration, or for that matter, Bollywood’s 'Padman' that has openly confronted the most private reality of women (a topic we still don’t talk about with our own dads) and concomitantly challenged the systemic patriarchal dogmas — Since the last couple of years, we have seen many instances that have highlighted and accentuated the need of sensitization to the private and public issues that women face.
But it’s true: If you want something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.
#MeToo and #TimesUp in the United States of America; #YoTambien in Mexico, Spain, South America; #QuellaVoltaChe in Italy; #BalanceTonPorc in France; #Ana_kaman in the Arab States; “Ni Una Menos” (‘not one less’), a campaign against femicide in Argentina — these are not initiatives; these are movements — movements by women, for women – for equal pay, political representation, justice, and many such more issues that women confront every day in their lives.
We’ve made a lot of progress when it comes to gender parity but it’s not enough. We still have women who are not a part of these initiatives, who don’t know about such movements, and who still struggle to get the basic standard of living and rights as humans and individuals. And there are also organizations who have acknowledged that the issues need to be addressed. Here is one such organization, one such story:
The theme for 2018 International Women’s Day is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”. This year, the focus is on the “rights and activism of rural women, who make up over a quarter of the world population, and are being left behind in every measure of development.”
And it couldn’t be more adept to developing nations like India and its women. According to estimates, 60 percent of South Asian and Sub-Saharan Africa women labor are in the agriculture sector in informal economies with no social or economic protection or rights. From poor standards of living to lack of collective voice and agency, rural women predominantly face issues related to menstrual health. A 2011 survey by AC Nielsen, commissioned by the Indian government, revealed that only 12 percent of women across India use sanitary pads and in rural areas, the numbers are even lower. Almost 88 percent of women and girls in India use homemade alternatives, such as an old cloth, rags, hay, sand, or ash; and 63 million adolescent girls live in homes without toilets. Rural women face far worse than urban women.
These not just portray gender inequities, but also social inequities.
But there are women, even men, who are doing a lot to empower women and are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential.
Women’s day is about making Sustainable Development Goals a reality; provide women with adequate standards of living, access to education and health, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
It’s true that we have managed to bring about a lot of change. But there’s a lot to do. We’re not there yet!
We don’t need a day to celebrate being women!
We need to celebrate ourselves, and each other!