International Women’s Day

As always, there are things to celebrate, and still battles to fight when it comes to women’s rights.

Let’s start with some good news:

Argentina changed its abortion laws in 2020, ending a total prohibition on abortion. Several other countries have also changed their abortion laws in recent years, like Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

In Kenya, 40 clan elders have decided to stop child marriages and to end female genital mutilation and other forms of gender-based violence. This is important, and progress is made in other countries as well.

In many African countries, education on women’s reproductive health, family planning and access to modern contraceptives are on the rise. This in turn will reduce the number of (unsafe) abortions, and allows the women to take control over their own bodies and their own reproductive health.

Further, more than 100 nations reignite the vision of the Beijing Platform for Action, the most comprehensive roadmap for advancing gender equality.

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna were awarded the Nobel’s Price in chemistry. Kamala Harris was appointed the first female vice-president in the USA, and Gitanjali Rao was selected TIME Magazine first ever “Kid-of-the-year”, for her use of science and technology to promote social change. And I tell you, what a girl this is!

But despite progress, there are still battles to fight.

Honour killings, in particular a threat to girls and women, are still a widespread problem especially in South-Asia and the Middle-East. As of late, an Indian 17-year old girl was beheaded by her own father after he discovered she had a relationship with a man.

In India, as in Pakistan and Afghanistan and several other countries, women are often married off to the man who raped her. This is a horrific practice, and something that needs to end immediately.

In Poland, a country at the heart of Europe, and member of the European Union (EU), abortion is now prohibited. The law passed in parliament in 2020, despite large protests.

Abortion is also prohibited in the following European countries: Malta (also member of EU), Andorra, the Vatican and San Marino. A complete overview of the situation worldwide can be found here.

Both access to healthcare and education are under pressure during the covid-19 pandemic, and we have to make an effort so we don’t take many steps backwards now that progress has been made in many countries.

But even in western societies we now see family life returning to old stereotypes, where women take on a greater toll of housework, whether they are still working during the pandemic or not, compared to their spouses. We have to make sure that the years of 2020 and 2021 will not be the new norm, but still work for equality both in the domestic and professional areas.

We need to work to put an end to the misconception that girls and women are the property of men, unable to act on their own. Girls and women are individuals, fully capable of making their own decisions. No girl should be raised solely to be married off and being treated as a slave of the household and a birthmachine. This is why it’s so important to make sure they are given access to education.

We also have to work to improve the balance of representation of power, both in parliaments, but also in business corporations. Even in developed countries, men earn more, they own more, and they more often climb “to the top”. We have to get rid of the stereotype that men are better at making money, while women are better at taking care of the family. Men can be good caretakers, and women can certainly be good leaders.

I would like to end with a quote of Barack Obama, even if it would have been more appropriate for the day to quote a woman. Still, this one sums up the way forward pretty well.

“You may live in the world as it is, but you can still work to create the world as it should be.”

So let’s do that! In the spirit of all the women that has fought battles before us, and for all those coming after us.

Speak up, take action – and have a great day!

International Women's Day web banner illustration of woman hands holding each other in female symbol shape. Girl teamwork concept, modern flat cartoon outline arms.