International Women’s Day +1

Five guest posts, with five different viewpoints for International Women’s Day. I’m really grateful to my guest bloggers for their contributions.

But that’s it, for another year. As one of my friends pointed out – pie got a whole week last week, but women only get one day. That doesn’t mean the other 364 days are ‘men’s days’. Although in many ways and in many places it’s still a man’s world.

Take literacy for example. Bharati Silawal-Giri, Gender and Development Advisor for the United Nations Development Programme said in 2003, ‘… illiteracy is essentially a manifestation of social inequality, the unequal distribution of power and resources in society.’

But look at this map, where the fatter the country the more illiterate women outnumber illiterate men.


Male and female literacy rates in Yemen are 69% and 28%, in Nepal they are 62% and 26%, in Mozambique they are 62% and 31%, and in the Central African Republic they are 64% and 34%, respectively.

Or poverty. We know 1.5 billion people live on less than a $1 a day. But do we realise that 70 per cent of those 1.5 billion are women?

This is gender inequality in extremis and it’s clear what obstacles lie in the way of women in developing countries.

Closer to home it’s more subtle. Why is it that only four of the FTSE100 companies have a female CEO? And that a quarter of them don’t have any women on the board?

How, forty years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, is it possible that women in the UK still earn on average 22 per cent less than their male colleagues? How long can it take to bring about change?

Of course things are better than they were. But it’s not perfect. I hope someone writing in twenty years time will be able to say that things in 2030 are better than they are now. I hope that by working together, in my lifetime men and women will be given the same level of respect and dignity for their humanity, regardless of where they live.

As my guest bloggers so eloquently demonstrated, we’re all different, we all have differing perspectives. But we’re all human, and we’re in it together. International Women’s Day isn’t a strident call to militant feminist action. It’s not a day that says ‘girls are better than boys’. It’s not meant to undermine, emasculate or threaten men.

It’s a reminder that we need to keep on working to set things straight, and stand shoulder to shoulder, not just for one day, but for today, and the next day and all the other 364 days of the year.

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