Population Matters pledges for parity
Women over the world are stepping up for human rights. They are self-empowering and fighting to have a voice. March 8th, International Women’s Day, is celebrating women’s economic, social and political achievements across countries and cultures. However, women everywhere have yet to reach their full potential because of cultural constraints and gender stereotyping. Women counter these mind sets every day. Population Matters feels it is a priority to mobilize for gender equality to bring global prosperity in the long-term.
On March 8th, the whole world meets to celebrate women. Women will unite as one and proudly affirm that they are of equivalent value to men. A woman embodies a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a lover, a friend, but she can also be an entrepreneur, a billionaire, a worker, a migrant, a political leader, an artist, a writer, a thinker, a scientist, an athlete, a soldier… Yes – she can basically be anything. But she needs to have faith in herself. So give her the possibility to do so.
All over the world, whether this be in the UK or in Saudi Arabia, India or elsewhere, women are being violently discriminated against. Some are facing intolerable situations that are infringing the codes of universal human rights. These inequalities, regarding healthcare, education, violence, discrimination, opportunity or human rights, and the empowerment of all women and girls, are considered as a top priority for the United Nations, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs)[i] for 2030. In this and generally, Population Matters advocates for all women across the globe. Here is why we are pledging for global gender parity.
For women’s voices to be heard
“It felt really good” said Salma al-Rashed, the first woman in history of Saudi Arabia to register to vote, to the BBC. On December 12th 2015, Saudi women had the power to vote, and the possibility to become political leaders for the first time. This symbolizes a historic step towards gender equality, but it is still a very small step. While Saudi women have gained the right to give their voice in these elections, only 10% of the people registered to vote are women[ii]. They still do not yet have the simple right to drive a car and cannot marry or travel without a man’s approval. Saudi women have a long way to go before they can be treated like Saudi men. Now that women can vote, an even greater step must be overcome – giving women confidence to put their voice into action. In order to do this, society must triumph over stereotypes about women’s role in society.
(Photograph from http://edgardaily.com/en/life/2015/saudi-women-register-to-vote-for-the-first-time-28031.)
For women to be respected and emancipated
Loubna Abidar is a Moroccan actress, famous for her role in the Franco-Moroccan film Much Loved. The film deals with the daily life of prostitutes today in Marrakesh. In Morocco, prostitution officially does not exist. It has been perceived as “a breach to moral values and to the Moroccan woman”, and as a result it has been censored in the Kingdom. There, her name has become synonymous with “whore”. Parents, when telling their girls off, even say “you will end up like Adibar.” On November 5th, the actress got beaten up on the streets of Casablanca and received serious facial injuries. Facing complete ostracism and experiencing great distress[iii], she took refuge in France, where her injuries were treated and she was welcomed with warmth[iv]. Yet, she was also the subject of violent misogynistic comments, such as a man telling her that he would not beat her, but that he would “just rape her”[v].
Loudna Abidar was born in a working-class neighbourhood. At 17 years old, as her parents could not support her anymore financially, her only solution was to either become a prostitute or marry. So she was “sold” to a 61-years-old Frenchman, with which she lived in Paris, and that she left at 20 years old[vi].
The film Much Loved pays tribute to Moroccan women prostitutes, portraying them as “fighters, givers, smart”, in Loubna Abidar’s words, that have dreams and hopes for a better future. Loubna Abidar deserves to be heard and to be accepted by her society.
(AFP Photo/ Yohan Bonnet)[vii]
For women to have solutions
In Latin America, the Zika virus poses a massive threat of microcephaly to foetuses. While the World Health Organization has identified the virus as a global emergency, Latin American governments, like Brazil and El Salvador, are telling women to stop getting pregnant for at least two years in order to cease the fast-spreading of the virus. Three points can be raised about the absurdity of this advice. First of all, especially knowing that these countries have no contraception and ban abortion even in case of rape or incest, and that sexual violence is common in the region, many women will get pregnant despite the advice. Consequently, and this is the second point, access to contraception and abortion must be allowed and improved. UN officials have even called on these countries to allow pregnant women the access to abortion and birth control[viii]. Even the Pope has approved the use of contraception[ix], but Latin American authorities are still adhering to their anti-contraception and anti-abortion views. Third of all, it seems to be out of the question to ask men to practise abstinence, as men are not perceived as morally responsible for unwanted pregnancy. Cultural habits tend to create an unspoken assumption that women impregnate themselves[x]. It is now time to appreciate that it is men to assume responsibility in their part in an unwanted pregnancy, especially if the woman is infected by the Zika virus. In the end, what needs to be addressed in these countries is the changing realities of reproduction and sex, and its meaning in relation with morality in today’s 21st century world[xi].
(Photograph by Tomás Munita in the favelas of Recife, Brazil, for National Geographic’s “How to Photograph the Invisible”. [xii])
For women to be successful and leaders
Hillary Clinton is the new iconic figure of American feminism and female success. Indeed, after gaining various political roles, from first lady to senator, Obama’s secretary of state and activist, she now aspires for the position of the President of the US. She would be the first female president in US history.
(Photograph by Bryan Synder/Reuters[xiii])
Hillary Clinton, along with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Time’s person of the year 2015[xiv], Dilma Rousseff leading the sixth biggest economy in the world, Christine Lagarde fostering global monetary cooperation through the IMF, and so many other female world leaders, are making a considerable shift towards a more equal future.
However, women represent 12,8% of the world’s billionaires, yet few of them are self-made[xv]. In addition to this, of the top fifty of the world’s richest people, only four are women[xvi].
For women to be economically empowered
Another example of gender inequality is the gender pay gap. Women are globally still earning less than men, being paid only about 60 to 75% of men’s wages[xvii]. In fact, the income gap between men and women is growing: men’s income increase at twice the rate of women’s. Jennifer Lawrence raised this issue in her essay “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” last October[xviii]. In the workforce, according to the IMF, women are excluded, which leads to an altered economic growth by the rising inequality between women and men[xix].
This article serves as a call for all men and women to be feminists in order to step up against discrimination and for women’s rights. Men also have the responsibility to act when they witness a woman being discriminated, and to be more aware of what women endure everyday.
To support gender equality and the eradication of any discrimination against women around the globe, make a #PledgeForParity.