#17 - International Women's Day - What's the big deal? Do we still need it?
So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s hard not to miss all the events, news, and general PR buzz about International Women’s Day that was recognised this month. Countries celebrate it in different ways. This year you would have heard about the Day Without Women in the US and many other western countries around the world such as Australia. It is an official holiday in a number of places including: Afghanistan, Armenia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Mongolia, Montenegro, Russia, Uganda, Vietnam. Zambia and in China & Nepal for women only. Many brands such as Nike and P&G launch powerful ad campaigns, while companies around the world ranging from huge multinationals host an array of events, women’s breakfasts and conferences in recognition of the day. If we move past all the marketing spin, is International Women’s Day still even important? Why do we still celebrate it? Is there an international men’s day? And, looking in to the future, what are the 6 things that we should be focussing on when it comes to gender equality. Let’s go back to the start for a minute or two. What is International Women's Day? And, is there an International Men's Day? Let’s start with Men’s Day - Is there an International Men's Day? Yes, it takes place on November 19 each year and is celebrated in 60 countries around the world. The objectives of the day include a focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. Now back to International Women’s Day - What is it? The Telegraph did a great short piece about this which I’ll link to in the show notes (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/international-womens-day-2017-did-start-important/) Basically, International Women’s Day (or IWD as it’s commonly referred to) is “a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements – from the political to the social – while calling for gender equality. It has been observed since the early 1900s and is now recognised each year on March 8. Is is not affiliated with any one group, but brings together governments, women's organisations, corporations and charities.” So, why is it still important? I think the best way to answer this question is to give you a few facts about the current situation of women in the world. Women make up more than two-thirds of the world's 796 million illiterate people. (UN Women) Only 22.8 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995 (UN Women) As of January 2017, 10 women are serving as Head of State and 9 are serving as Head of Government (UN Women) It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime (UN Women) Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children (below 18 years of age). Of those women, more than 1 in 3—or some 250 million—were married before 15. Child brides are often unable to effectively negotiate safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to early pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV (UN Women) Around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. By far the most common perpetrators of sexual violence against girls are current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends (UN Women) At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting in 30 countries, according to new estimates published on the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in 2016. In most of these countries, the majority of girls were cut before age 5. (UN Women) Adult women account for almost half of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Women and girls together account for about 70 per cent, with girls representing two out of every three child trafficking victims (UN Women) One in 10 women in the European Union report having experienced cyber-harassment since the age of 15 (including having received unwanted, offensive sexually explicit emails or SMS messages, or offensive, inappropriate advances on social networking sites). The risk is highest among young women between 18 and 29 years of age (UN Women) Evidence suggests that certain characteristics of women, such as sexual orientation, disability status or ethnicity, and some contextual factors, such as humanitarian crises, including conflict and post-conflict situations, may increase women’s vulnerability to violence (UN Women) Also, 34 per cent of women with a health problem or disability reported having experienced any physical or sexual violence by a partner in their lifetime, compared to 19 per cent of women without a health problem or disability, also based on data from the European Union (UN Women) Now we know what it is and why it's still important, what are the SIX things that we should focus on to accelerate gender equality? 1) Accelerating Gender Equality for Women and The Environment The situation: Women, especially those in poverty, appear more vulnerable in the face of natural disasters. A recent study of 141 countries found that more women than men die from natural hazards. Where the socioeconomic status of women is high, men and women die in roughly equal numbers during and after natural disasters, whereas more women than men die (or die at a younger age) where the socioeconomic status of women is low. Women and children are more likely to die than men during disasters. (UN Women) "Similarly, in industrialized countries, more women than men died during the 2003 European heat wave. During Hurricane Katrina in the USA, African-American women who were the poorest population in that part of the country faced the greatest obstacles to survival" (IUCN Global Gender Office) Women and children bear the main negative impacts of fuel and water collection and transport, with women in many developing countries spending from 1 to 4 hours a day collecting biomass for fuel. A study of time and water poverty in 25 sub-Saharan African countries estimated that women spend at least 16 million hours a day collecting drinking water; men spend 6 million hours; and children, 4 million hours. Gender gaps in domestic and household work, including time spent obtaining water and fuel and processing food, are intensified in contexts of economic crisis, environmental degradation, natural disasters, and inadequate infrastructure and services (UN Women) So, gender equality goes hand in hand with climate solutions and that makes movements like 1 Million Women are super important and extremely relevant right now. They are a movement of 600,000+ women and girls (and growing everyday) who are pioneers in the gender and climate change arena in Australia and around the world. Climate solutions have to move past world leaders arguing about the proven science and for everyone to take control. Yes, the reality is that we need strong leadership and big decisions to be made now. And this can only happen when we all make it a priority so organisations like 1 Million Women aim for all of us all to be living a low-carbon lifestyle by inspiring 1 million women to take practical action on climate change in their everyday lives to cut carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse pollutant leading to climate change. According to them, if 1 million women all cut 1 tonne each of carbon pollution, it would equal to 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is the equivalent of growing a new forest of 5 million trees. They provide resources to guide you through ways to live a low-carbon life and cut C02 in the process, and ask you to kick-start your low-carbon life by making a personal goal to cut a minimum of 1 tonne of CO2 pollution from your daily life within a year. It's an easy way to educated start taking action so I suggest you check them out at http://www.1millionwomen.com.au as a first step. “Climate change responses cannot be effective unless they are gender aware, taking into consideration the different needs of women and men, the inequalities that compound the impacts of climate change for women and the specific knowledge women and men can contribute to solutions” (1 Million Women) If you want some further reading about climate solutions, Project Drawdown will be available from the 18th April which maps, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming. For each solution, they describe its history, the carbon impact it provides, the relative cost and savings, the path to adoption, and how it works. The goal of the research that informs Drawdown is to determine if we can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within thirty years. All solutions modeled are already in place, well understood, analyzed based on peer-reviewed science, and are expanding around the world. So if you had any doubt about the solutions to climate change being available, this is proof that we already have everything that we need to make a difference. 2) Accelerating Gender Equality by Creating Access to Finance for Women The situation: The IFC has estimated that worldwide, a $300 billion gap in financing exists for formal, women-owned small businesses, and more than 70 percent of women-owned small and medium enterprises have inadequate or no access to financial services. Without access to finance, women face difficulties in collecting and saving income, growing their businesses, and pulling their families out of poverty. As a result, women remain largely excluded from the formal economy. So to recognise International W