A day to celebrate women but there is still work to be done

A group of Indonesian female students protest outside the United Nations office to mark the...
A group of Indonesian female students protest outside the United Nations office to mark the International Women's Day in central Jakarta March 8, 2021. The students protested against widespread violence against Indonesian women, especially those working as domestic helpers and labourers. en/Photo by Vitasari REUTERS
Today is International Women’s Day. A time to celebrate the women in our lives, writes  Lyn Farry.

International Women’s Day — a reminder to honour, acknowledge and appreciate the special women in our lives.

But also an occasion to remember and be prepared to stand with those women globally whose current situation is dire. There is certainly cause for action and where possible, intervention.

International Women’s Day is not a new phenomenon — not an off- shoot of recent ‘‘MeToo’’ and ‘‘Time’s Up’’ movements but a call for change which had its beginnings in the United States, February 29, 1909 in support of striking garment workers seeking better working conditions.

In 1975 the United Nations (UN) made it official and more than 100 years on, International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrates social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women while also highlighting a sense of urgency in an acceleration towards gender parity. The 2022 campaign theme is ‘‘#BreakTheBias’’ — whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. A small example, to quote eminent scientist Siouxsie Wiles MNZM — “Some men are incredible feminists and will support women and boost their careers, but as soon as women become their equals, then they will do anything in their power to stop that.”

Globally here are some reasons why there is much work to be done. (ref.#TOGETHERBAND)

  •  181 million girls and young women are not in education, employment or training.
  •  35% of women have experienced some form of violence — whether mental, sexual or physical.
  • It will take 100 years to bridge the gender pay gap.
  • Worldwide lockdowns because of Covid-19 have seen domestic violence skyrocket to the point where the UN terms it a ‘‘shadow pandemic’’.
  • 72 countries do not allow women to open a bank account.
  • Women, particularly women of colour, have higher poverty rates than men.
  • Women make up 70% of the health workforce but hold fewer leadership positions.

International Women’s Day forces conversations not only about women’s achievements but also shines the light on global gender inequality, bringing it into mainstream consciousness. This invites people of all backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and gender to consider what they can do to create a more equal place to live and work.

Zonta International is an example of an organisation which offers an opportunity for people at a local, national and international level to lend their voices and collective strength to an active, credible global body of professionals empowering women through service and advocacy. Founded in 1919 in America, there are now 1200 clubs in 67 countries with around 30,000 members united in a common cause.

Zontians all over the world volunteer their time, talents and energy to support local and international projects. Zonta has had a presence in New Zealand for 50 years with 30 clubs from Northland to Invercargill. The Zonta Club of Metropolitan Dunedin, established 25 years ago this August, is a Dunedin-based club which welcomes like-minded women to join with them in advancing the status of women in Dunedin and overseas.

Recognising the impact of climate change, ‘‘UN Women’’ 2022 slogan for IWD is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, acknowledging the contribution of women and girls around the world who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response to build a more sustainable future for all.

Women are increasingly being recognised as more vulnerable to climate change than men, as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on the natural resources which climate change threatens to destroy.

At the same time women and girls are effective and powerful leaders and change makers — they are involved in sustainability issues around the world and their participation and leadership is showing results. Realising the opportunities and identifying the constraints, empowers women and girls to have a voice and be equal players in the decision-making process.

So, how does New Zealand measure up? The first country in the world to grant women the right to vote back in 1893, New Zealand now features women in several powerful and influential roles. According to the UN we now rank fifth in the world on equality for women. However, despite pride in this historic milestone, we have not progressed in other areas to the same degree. Yes, New Zealand continues to enact ground-breaking policies which have considerably advanced women’s rights, but there is still much to be done. For example –

  • Our gender pay gap is still sitting at 9%+
  • Of the developed countries in the OECD New Zealand has one of the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
  • Statistics for Maori, New Zealand-born people of colour, and migrants are higher.
  • Poorly educated, disabled, and sole parents are disadvantaged in terms of wealth, health and safety.
  • The LGBTQI+ community continues to be marginalised, suffering from discrimination and abuse.

Unfortunately, Covid 19 has exacerbated most of the above statistics and there is no end in sight at this point.

Let International Women’s Day serve as a reminder to all, that equal rights are human rights and that we must all work together to uphold this truth. To quote Helen Clark ONZ, “I think young people often want someone to bounce ideas off and look at possibilities. I can only encourage women who have done the hard yards and moved up in their career to put time back in with young women to inspire them to know that they can go all the way in achieving their dreams”.

March 8 also marks Zonta International Rose Day — a day when all Zontians worldwide will acknowledge women in their communities who have inspired and shared, by digitally sending an image, or delivering personally, a yellow rose, symbol of Zonta International.

-- Lyn Farry is a foundation member of the Zonta Club of Metropolitan Dunedin.


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