Equality for Women is Progress for All

‘Equality between men and women refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys. Equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but that women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female’ [UN Women].

Yet today, equality for women persists to be unfinished.

8th March 1975 saw the dawn of the International Women’s Day. It is a day for the world to reflect on the progress made for women and by women, a day calling for change, a day to rejoice on the courage of women, and a day to realize that equality for women is equality for everyone; and when everyone is equal progress begins to happen.

Why is it important for women to be equal? How does equality of women impact the progress of everyone?

Women are the centre of a family; and families together form a society; create one world. Women are half of the world’s population: 49.6% [World Bank]. This population which is equal to the population of men play diverse roles in their families and societies taking over more than half the responsibilities of men. Based on the gender roles, a woman is the core of the family who shoulders the reproductive role, together with care, food and nutrition, health, sanitation, education, protection, etc.

Contribution of women towards the household responsibilities as well as in the paid jobs influences positively on economy, education, and in changing the negative levels and effects of poverty. Women account for two thirds of the world’s poorest citizens (UNESCO 2014). Household poverty is a disproportionate burden on women as they are those who look into the welfare of the family. Though the roles a woman play at home, does not bring her wages, yet it results in the economy, and development, making women empowerment a vital factor for eradicating poverty.

According to UN Women, 97% of the global GDP is from 93% of female population living in 95 countries of the world. The agricultural labour force of women averages to 43%, and 24% of women are in senior management positions globally. Women’s contribution to the GDP further increases through the most vulnerable labour force in the world – the domestic workers who represent 83% of the world population. These women while facing the hardest challenges, unequal pay, violations, abuses and sexual violence, contribute towards the world GDP through their work [http://beijing20.unwomen.org/en/infographic/economy].

The Economist in 2012 stated, that in the following decade, there will be around 1 billion women stepping into the global workforce, and if the female wage rate matches those of men, the world GDP would increase.

This in other words pronounces that women are able to equally perform both in the household and outside. It also explains how important it is to reduce pay gaps between men and women for the world to progress. Reduction in gender pay gaps effects in taking a step forward towards equality of women.

Whilst women are able to play a significant role in the progress and development of the world, women are held back, and prevented from leadership, decision making and power. Today it could be seen that two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults being women. This situation is not due to the lack of intelligence of women, but due to the negligence, ignorance, and discrimination shown to women by both men and women due to various reasons. A recent survey of the UN in 143 countries showed 128 countries having at least one legal difference restricting women’s economic opportunities.

If women can contribute to the world GDP, if women can contribute towards household and family development, towards education, if women can contribute towards technology, science and agriculture, then why not equal opportunities and equal recognition to women. Treating women unequally will affect their contributing capacity due to unfairness, ill-health conditions, discrimination and violence, which would not be a progress to the family, society, country and to the world.

For progress to be visible, equality for women should become visible in all aspects in all societies.

Let us strive together for the equality of women!

‘Happy International Women’s Day’

E. Ariyaratnam | Founding President – Asian Press Institute