Today we mark International Women’s Day 2018. Together, it’s a moment to celebrate, but also a call to action. Let’s start by celebrating the achievements of women in politics, culture, society and our everyday lives. But we also need to recognise the inequalities and injustices that women continue to face and demand greater urgency for change.
International Women's Day has been observed since the early 1900s, when women started actively campaigning for their rights. In 1910, an International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen which proposed that every country should observe an annual celebration of women to press for change. International Women's Day was born. This year is particularly special in the history of women’s rights in Ireland. It’s the centenary of the 1918 suffrage act, which allowed Irish women to vote and stand in parliamentary elections for the very first time – a goal fought long and hard for by Irish suffragette Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and her followers. 1918 was also the year in which Countess Markievicz became the first woman elected to the British Parliament. She never took her seat at Westminster, instead becoming the first female TD in the new Dáil the following year.
Since that first International Women’s Day in 1910 and the suffrage act eight years later, we have made huge strides in women’s equality. Girls have greater access to education – the number of out-of-school girls globally has been nearly cut in half since 2000, and women and girls are spending more time in school than ever before. Child marriage is declining – the rate of marriage of girls under the age of 15 decreased globally from 12 percent around 1990 to 7 percent around 2015. Women’s representation in the political sphere has also increased – in 46 countries, women now hold more than 30 percent of seats in national parliament in at least one chamber.
We must value these achievements as signs of improving conditions and options for women the world over. However, change is slow and uneven across countries and continents. Many inequalities and injustices remain, especially in the Global South. Women still struggle with lower pay, worse education and health, and more experiences of violence than men. They remain underrepresented in business and politics. And to see these inequalities, we need look no further than our own sector. A CIVICUS report in 2013 found that as much as 75 percent of all staff are women, but women make up less than 30 percent of the leaders of the largest civil society organisations.
What can we do to improve this and build on the positive changes that we’ve witnessed? Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. We need to work together to achieve this goal. We can increase our focus on better education, health and safety for women and girls worldwide. We can invest in women’s economic empowerment. We can improve equality and diversity of leadership by ensuring a transparent, supportive work environment for all women. Together, we can look forward to a bright and equal future for women and girls.
Dóchas would like to wish you all a happy International Women’s Day.
Be part of the action by joining some International Women’s Day events:
Screening of ‘Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time’ with World Vision Ireland and the Centre for Gender and Women's Studies, TCD: 8 March, 7pm - 8.30pm, McNeill Theatre, Trinity College Dublin (Hamilton Building). Find out more.
FLYEfit 90s Fitness Class in support of PLAN Ireland 'Because I am a Girl' campaign: 8 March, 7pm - 8pm, FLYEfit George's Street, South Great George's Street. Find out more.
Spaces of Hope - Imelda Graham & her work in a refugee camp in Lesvos with the National Women’s Council of Ireland: 8 March, 6.30pm - 8.30pm, Wood Quay Venue, Dublin City Council Civil Offices. Find out more.
Celebrating Women in Leadership with The Wheel: 9 March, 8.15am - 10am, House Dublin, 27 Leeson Street Lower, Saint Kevin's, Dublin. Find out more.
Or kick back and relax with this fun podcast:
The Guilty Feminists’ Suffragette Centenary Special with Guardian Live. Listen to Part One and Part Two.