Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives

This year’s theme for the International Women’s Day, 8 March, is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”. The International Women’s Day (IWD) brings governments, business organizations, civil society organizations, and all communities together under one theme, to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, raise awareness and to pressure for all actors to ensure equality among men and women and also call to action for accelerating gender equality.

In the year of 1909, February 28, the Socialist Party of America observed a Woman’s Day in New York; and a year later it was proposed that to have an International Women’s Day at the International Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, as a part of a strategy to promote equal rights for women. Following the Copenhagen proposal, Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland marked the International Women’s Day on March 19, 1911. Since 1913, the International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8.

Under the 2018 theme ‘Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives’ the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women [CSW] that will be taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018, will draw attention to the activism of rural and urban women who engage in changing the lives of women. Women though being half the world’s population, are left out without social justice and development.

According to the UN Women, more than quarter of the world population is constituted by rural women, with a 43 percent being in the global agricultural labour force. Women, especially the rural women contributes a reasonable ratio (60% South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa) in the agriculture sector but with unreasonable gender pay gaps [40%] and very low land rights (Less than 13% Agriculture Land Ownership). According to the gendered roles, fetching water is a role of women and girls and only 20% rural and 68% urban communities get access to safe drinking water. This indicates the issue of associated hardship, security, health and hygiene problems that are accompanied by women and girls.

Transformation of women’s lives requires a start within women themselves; confidence, commitment and competencies need to begin within women. As women, it is essential to have the confidence to change our socioeconomic condition and social status, and it requires strong commitment to face any challenges in achieving of the targets. For this, women need to develop competencies at all settings, rural and urban to realize potentials. Then, transformation needs to take place at the family with aspirations and values.

As the building of healthy societies is the foundation for a better world, women are expected to start social transformation at our own societies whether it is in rural or urban. For that, women need to take hand with women, and empower women.

Rural women are especially significant in food security for their communities; to protect and to conserve the natural resources and to build climate resilient economies. Urban women get more opportunities in businesses and services, and thus, they get opportunities in influencing the policy makers and implementers of both public and private sectors.

While women pay high attention for transformation the lives of women, it is essential to recall our accountability for gender equality. As revealed in the World Economic Forum of 2017, according to the current rate of progress, it will take 100 years to close the gender gap. To make realize the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals, ‘to leave no one behind’, women need to awake the rights holders and pressure the duty bearers to ensure social justice and equitable development, with adequate standards of living, equality, and free from all kind of discrimination and violence.

For this, it is elemental that we as women today, convince ourselves and convince others for the transforming of the lives of women and girls – rural and urban, everywhere globally.

E. Ariyaratnam | Founding President – Asian Press Institute