Despite recent debates concerning when did the first International Women’s Day occur, everyone agrees that it is at least 100 years old. It was originally launched in order to put women’s rights on top of the agenda.
And every year, during a week or so, articles are published to highlight women’s plight around the globe.
And every year, the situation described is horrendous.
Women are subjected to major discrimination, violence and abuse.
In countries where wealth belongs to boys, where families need to pay important dowry, girls are victims of foeuticide or infanticide. They are killed in honor crimes, attacked with acid, burnt when their behavior is not considered as appropriate. In the framework of conflicts, their rape is seen as a weapon of war. Victims of trafficking, exploitation, they face specific risks linked to their extreme vulnerability.
In an important number of countries, women and girls cannot access their basic rights, such as health or education on the sole ground of being women. Giving birth remains a death threat for many. They are not legally considered as adults, cannot take decisions for themselves or access employment, property, heritage.
Forced into early marriages and pregnancies, victims of domestic violence, they are often not allowed to divorce and their children belong to the fathers or their family in law.
Their body and fate are not theirs.
Is this the best we could achieve in 100 years?
I mean, really?
Back in 2000, hopes and expectations were high. It seemed that the time to deal with women’s rights had finally come. For example, the international community set clearly the fight for gender equality and maternal health as two out of the eight Millennium Development Goals. But, when progresses were evaluated in 2010, it seems that those are far from reached, rising fears that the targets will not be met in 2015.
What shall we do? Sit and cry?
There are solutions.
Empower women. Give them the tools to fight for their rights. Do not consider them as mere beneficiaries but as partners in development. Invest in them. Ask them what they need, what they want. Sensitise them. Give them the means to protect their environment, their family, to access to basic services.
This aspect if fundamental in Terre des hommes’ projects, both on health and protection. Mothers are taught how to recognize problems and more importantly how to deal with them taking into account the context they live in. Nutrition projects in Nepal for example insist on local food available. In Afghanistan, the best traditional practices are encouraged. In Colombia, women are empowered to take care of their communities.
I hate the International Women’s Day
It just gives us a clear conscience once a year and we can go on with our life the next day.
I wish for an International Women’s year, decade or century, whatever it takes for changes to happen.