On the 8th March every year the day is marked by people celebrating International Women’s Day. It is a day to acknowledge women who have changed history, women’s achievements and the past, present and future struggles of women living in a world that is still very male dominated.
Events are held all over the world in the form of rallies, protests, exhibitions, performances, discussions and lectures. They work both as a tool to empower and as a reminder of the constant vigilance required to gain and maintain equality for women.
It’s only very recently that even here in the UK women have gained many of the rights enjoyed by men for many years. For instance, women did not gain the right to vote until 1928, and rape that occurred within a marriage was not made a criminal offence until 1991.
Amazing progress was made throughout the twentieth century, but despite huge amounts of legislation being passed, there is still a significant pay gap (women are paid on average 16% less than men for doing the same job, even less if they’re part time workers). Women are regularly put under pressure to look a certain way, and made to feel unattractive if they don’t. Only 6% of reported rapes end in a conviction. Sexual harassment on the street and in the workplace is still rife and women only make up 22% of MPs in the House of Commons, despite being around 52% of the population.
Historically, women have had to overcome more hurdles and obstacles in order to achieve, and so for one day a year we acknowledge the struggles of the past, and say thank you for the inspirational women who fought so hard so that women today could have the right to vote, get an education, get a job, buy a house, choose whether or not to get married and whether or not to have children. These are all rights that many of us often take for granted. They are also rights that many women in other parts of the world still do not have. The day is a chance for us to learn something new, whether that is the history of the women’s suffrage movement in the UK, or the oppression being faced by women overseas.
So embrace the day, whoever you are, and if you get chance check out the display made by Leeds Met SU Women’s Forum at the City Campus.