This blog was co-written by Jenny Enarsson, our former Gender justice Lead, and Shawna Wakefield, our current Gender Justice Lead.
The saying that ‘women’s rights are human rights’ is now a well known refrain, and in practice, women are claiming their rights across the globe. But we are well aware that struggles for women’s rights continue in all societies, and resistance can be found in all sectors. International Women’s Day is a time to recognize the huge advances that have been made on women’s rights, and the long way we still have to go.
More than that, it is a day to reflect on the deep political and symbolic significance of the day – to recognize how the big changes on women’s rights have come about. No government, no international organization and no corporation has decided to grant rights to women on their own. You can always trace the big and small gains for women’s rights straight back to the creativity, tenacity and collective action of women (and some men) organizing for lasting changes. The biggest advances ever made on women’s rights have been fought for by women themselves, pushing for fundamental and systemic change.
At Oxfam, we see International Women’s Day – now over 100 years in the making - as a day to get inspired, invigorated and to raise the visibility of the essential work of women’s rights organizations, networks and movements from all around the world. It is a call for action – for men and women alike. Indeed, while women’s movements are critical actors for change, they are not the only ones – massive action at personal to systemic levels for gender inequality to be a thing of the past. We see this day as a time to celebrate, but never depoliticise. Hard won victories must be defended every single day, and for millions and millions of women they are still to be achieved.
We know it is more than ever important for women to be supported in developing their own visions and strategies for change, to network, build movements and influence other social actors to affirm that achieving women’s rights is foundational for all development goals.
Indeed, there is still a long way to go to a just world.
- Women hold only 19% of parliamentary seats in the world.
- In the global South, women account for only 10-20% of land owners.
- One in three women in the world experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.
- Over 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.
This is a day for addressing women’s rights movements across the world and saying thank you for our rights and our freedom. Today is a day that you created, and it’s a day that matters. We celebrate you, and work together with you.
On International Women’s Day, women’s rights movements everywhere organize events, marches, celebrations and debates. Find out what they are doing where you are, and join in!
In the UK? Hold a Get Together to raise funds to transform the lives of women living in poverty around the world.