Sunday, 8 March 2009

Happy International Women's Day

Why is International Women's Day relevant and necessary?  Perhaps, to properly understand that in many parts of the world women are chattel, forcibly uneducated, left to live in poverty and under the thumb of patriarchal regimes. Perhaps it is to bring attention to the fact that the fight for gender equality is a must. According to UN reports, women perform 2/3 of the world's work and earn 1/10 of the world's income. A report released this week by UNIFEM entitled "Who Answers to Women? Gender and Accountability" pointed to these vast gaps between men and women. 
In both national governments and multilateral organizations, accountability systems need to be changed and oriented to answer to women, if commitments to gender equality are to move from rhetoric to results, she stated.

“It is time to move from lip-service to real results,” she said, adding that commitments made by governments should be accompanied by funding and planning.

There is still a long way to go in that regard, she noted, given that women are outnumbered 4 to 1 in legislatures around the world; over 60 per cent of all unpaid family workers globally are women; and about one-third of women suffer gender-based violence during their lives.

Perhaps it is to bring to world attention the plight of women like the 9 year old Brazilian girl allegedly raped by her step-father. Victimized by a pedophile and ignored by her church, the child was pregnant with twins as a result of the sexual assault. Doctors, fearful for the girl's life, performed an abortion, which is illegal in Brazil. The Catholic Church, in its collective wisdom (?) excommunicated the girl, her doctors, her mother, but not her attacker. "“God’s law is above any human law,” regional archbishop, Jos√© Cardoso Sobrinho said Thursday. The outrage in Brazil and around the world is palpable.

Perhaps it is to remember girls like Nojoud Muhammad Nasser. She was the Yemeni child who was forced to marry at the age of 8 to a man three times her age. 
When she was less than 10 years old, the girl was forced to marry a man at least three times her age. After being raped and abused by him, she successfully filed for divorce and traveled abroad to talk about her ordeal.

Thursday evening, the girl will be commended for her courage at an awards gala in the Austrian capital. But she cannot attend because Yemeni authorities have confiscated her passport, saying she is too young to travel by herself.

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said Yemen's ambassador in Vienna told him a 10-year-old was not allowed to travel alone within Yemen or anywhere else.
But Georg Kindel, the founder and organizer of the Women's World Awards, said the girl's father, brother and uncle had all offered to travel to Austria with her.
"We definitely don't understand this," Kindel told reporters. "She is with us in our hearts and we will watch very closely what will happen to this girl."

Perhaps, it is just to give pause to all of the women who came before; who stood up in the face of injustice. The women who worked outside of the home while keeping it together inside. The women who broke glass ceilings so that I am able stand on a religious pulpit in Canada without oddity. The women who said "no more" and continue to say "what's next". The women who fought and continue to fight the quotas, the stereotypes, the unabashed sexism and the assault on women's bodies. Perhaps, it is for all of this and so much more that I wish you all a Happy International Women's Day.


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