Women’s Equality Day (26th of August)
Women’s Equality Day is celebrated every 26th of August in the United States. This day commemorates the ratification of the 19th amendment of the American Constitution. The 19th amendment states that a person cannot be denied the right to vote on the basis of sex, which effectively meant that women could vote. Although the 19th amendment was first introduced in 1878, it wasn’t until the 26th of August of 1920 – more than forty years later! – that it was adopted by the U.S. Congress. Before its adoption, numerous women in the United States were organizing, demonstrating and fighting for their right to vote, inspired by the struggle of other women, especially in the United Kingdom, known as ‘suffragettes’.
You probably have heard about the British suffragettes, but did you know that New Zealand was actually the first country in the world that granted women the right to vote? It was in 1893. However, in the majority of the world, women had to wait to vote until after World War II. The efforts that women made during this period contributed to the recognition of their value as members of society, deserving full legal rights. For example, in France, Italy, and Japan, women were granted the right to vote in 1945. In 1948, Belgium followed; Greece, in 1952. In other countries the struggle lasted for many more decades. In Switzerland, women didn’t have the right to vote in every canton until 1991, when the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland force Appenzell Innerrhoden (a Swiss canton) to accept women’s suffrage. Among the last countries to accept women’s suffrage were Iraq and Kuwait (2005), Oman (2003), and Afghanistan (2001).
However, although now women can vote in the majority of the countries around the world, gender inequality still exists in many other areas.
What Does ‘Women’s Equality’ Exactly Mean?
Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls was the goal number 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, a series of objectives set by the United Nations to be achieved before 2030. In addition, gender equality is considered a human right.
The goal of achieving gender equality means the elimination of any form of discrimination against women, something that it is sadly still far. For example, currently women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership: men still control three-quarters of parliamentary seats around the world and women are largely excluded from peace processes. Across the globe, women and girls perform a disproportionate share of unpaid domestic and care work, and less than two thirds between the ages of 25-54 are in the labour force. In some countries, women have problems to access adequate health care, maternal care, or nutrition. In global agriculture, women are just 13 per cent of agricultural land holders. Women in Northern Africa hold less than one in five paid jobs in the non-agricultural sector, and the proportion of women in paid employment outside the agriculture sector has increased from 35 per cent in 1990 to 41 per cent in 2015.
However, although the picture is gloomy, a new report published by UN Women that aims to review how far we’ve come since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years ago proves that positive change is possible. Initiatives and collective action to meet women’s rights have been taken all over the world, more girls are in school that twenty-five years ago, fewer women are dying in childbirth, and a greater number of laws supporting women’s equality have been passed in several countries. Despite the progress, so far, no country has achieved gender equality.
How can we contribute to gender equality?
In order to achieve global gender equality, a common effort from citizens, states, and private organisations is needed. Although it may seem that individual initiatives are not as powerful as governmental action, the truth is that we can all contribute to a fairer world in terms of gender equality. For example, if you are a parent, share the workload at home and the caring of the kids and/or other dependant persons. Educate your kids in the values of gender equality, free from gender stereotypes that damage girls and boys. If you are a man, talk to the women in your life to see how you can support them. If you are a woman, support other women and practices female solidarity -known as ‘sorority’. If you see an episode of sexual harassment in the streets, in your workplace, or even among your group of friends, raise your voice against the injustice.
In addition, if you have the time and are willing to, you can volunteer in any organisation that fights gender inequality or donate so they can continue doing your work. In the meantime, share this post in social media to create awareness for tackle gender inequality! And remember, the future is equal!