International Women’s Day – The Missing Pieces

By Jhanvi Gudka

There’s just under a week to go until International Women’s Day (IWD) and if the past few years are anything to go by, we can expect social media to be filled with posts about female solidarity and women’s empowerment, thousands of people attending events around the world that have been months in planning, and the inevitable splash of media coverage on how far women have come and what challenges lie ahead.

Now I’m not undervaluing the importance of any of those things – and I’m pretty sure I’ll be posting an inspirational quote or three on my own social media accounts. However, I do believe that this short-lived buzz where women are granted the spotlight for a 24-hour period is futile. International Women’s Day is missing the longevity that any other impactful campaign has.

Three things usually happen on IWD. We celebrate the achievements of powerful women that have come before us, we reflect on our own circumstances and that of women around the world, and we look to the future and discuss how we can create an environment where girls and women will flourish alongside their male counterparts. But are these solely women’s issues? And even if you believe they are, shouldn’t they be discussed, challenged and addressed so often that they become part of normal everyday conversations?

I’m not arguing against IWD and I completely disagree with some of the backlash we see every year, particularly around having an International Men’s Day. What?! Men don’t have one because they don’t need one – their achievements are celebrated every day and the majority don’t have to confront some of the issues that women have been battling for years including unequal pay and sexual harassment.

Fortunately, women have made huge progress over the past year on those two exact issues. And even though many women are sadly still confined within a patriarchal society and remain in the shadows of men, we are slowly shaking off our victimhood status and standing up for our rights. In fact, Meghan Markle captured this sentiment very aptly at the Royal Foundation Forum last week when she said: “Women don’t need to find a voice, they have a voice […] they [just] need to feel empowered to use it.”

Recent campaigns including TimesUp and #MeToo have sown the seeds for something truly game-changing for women around the world but as I discussed in my last blog, we are only going to be able to capitalise on this through sustained action.

I think IWD should be about measuring the impact of micro actions – individual or otherwise – over a long period of time and so in an effort to kick things off, here are four suggestions to celebrate IWD in a more meaningful way this year.

  • Mentor a girl or woman
    • Giving your time is perhaps the important thing you can give and so whether you’re teaching a skill, offering advice or simply sharing a different perspective, use your time for good this year. Don’t forget a mentee can be anyone – younger, older or the same age – and from any background.
  • Identify one women’s rights issue you care about and commit yourself to it
    • Focusing on one issue and addressing it in different ways is more valuable than paying lip service to ten issues. Find something you are genuinely passionate about and support the cause in as many ways as you can. Most importantly though, find ways to measure your impact at every stage.
  • Join existing networks
    • Making the biggest impact doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel. There are some really great communities and meet-ups out there that are most likely already addressing the issues you care about so join in and proactively participate because there is always strength in numbers.
  • Use your platforms
    • Don’t just use them for IWD; raise awareness throughout the year and give yourself monthly targets. Whether that’s in terms of blogging, using social media to post interesting articles or engaging with someone that has a different opinion to you, use your use voice online and offline to inspire debate.

IWD celebrates women’s achievements over the years and recognises the glass ceilings that have been cracked. But it’s important to remember that it is small actions that have made this possible and they will be the key to creating brighter futures for women. If we all commit to improving women’s rights through micro actions, maybe women will be celebrated every day and not just on 8th March.

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