RASHMI OBEROI | 7 MARCH, 2019
There is no one way to achieve equality
I have been advocating for equal opportunities for women in all fields for a really long time. This can only happen the day we stop considering women as being something else as compared to men. Creating a norm where males and females are treated on an equal basis is the only way all women can be guaranteed opportunities on an equal footing.
Inequality ends where normalisation begins. I know that currently the scenario is far from perfect, but we are surely getting there, albeit slowly.
International Women’s Day
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day campaign is: #BalanceforBetter. It is all about building a gender-balanced world where everyone has a part to play — all the time, everywhere. From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.
The right balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for a gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, a gender-balance of employees, wealth distribution, representation, media coverage, etc. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive and drives a better working world. Collective action and shared responsibility for driving a gender-balanced world is key.
The first International Women’s Day occurred in 1911, and was supported by over one million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not specific to a country, group or organisation. As Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
The denial of interrelated rights
Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), many girls and women still do not have equal opportunities to realise rights recognised by law. In many countries, women are not entitled to own property or inherit land. Social exclusion, ‘honour’ killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking, restricted mobility and early marriage among others, deny the right to health to women and girls and increase illness and death throughout the life-course.
Today we must all join forces to make sure that the health of women and girls is not jeopardized simply because they were born female. We will not see sustainable progress unless we fix failures in health systems and society so that girls and women enjoy equal access to health information and services, education, employment and political positions.
Discrimination at work is still a fact of life for too many women. Women earn just 80 percent of men’s wages on average. Women still face discrimination in pay and promotions and barriers to advancement because of family responsibilities. Some employers still haven’t gotten the message on sexual harassment. These problems are compounded for women in low-paying jobs because they fear losing their jobs if they speak up about unfair or illegal treatment. Eliminating discrimination and ensuring fairness at work is what we must all stand for, together.
The word ‘opportunity’
Opportunity literally means “a time or a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” If we want to investigate whether women today are getting equal opportunities, we need to look at whether the times or circumstances are favourable to them in comparison to men.
The time is definitely right to be a female. Historically the female gender has always stood marginalised from society, but things are changing. In most developed countries, more women empowerment groups and opinions now thrive within the community than ever. Firms are now formulating increasingly mature policies to address the issues of gender inequality, equal pay, and harassment. These policies will help more females enter the workforce and perform on the same scale as the opposite gender.
Women today are definitely starting to get equal opportunities thanks in part to a change in mind-sets and opinions, but we are certainly still not considered equal to men. Women might be more prominent in workplaces than before, and some might even be getting equal or even better pay than men, but we can’t conclude that every woman has equal opportunities in today’s world.
The common goal of equality
Women are also daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, and human beings. We come in peace, but we mean business.
And to those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: Time’s Up.
We say Time’s Up for pay inequality, Time’s Up for discrimination, Time’s Up for harassment of any kind, and Time’s Up for the abuse of power.
Just as we have the power to shape culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well.
So, let’s work together, women and men, united and committed to creating safe work environments, equal pay, and access for all women.
I, personally, look forward to the day when the impulse to include gender as a title modifier is no longer “current”; to be defined by gender because of “rarity” instead of skill. This, in my opinion, is the societal hole we should be trying to dig ourselves out of.
However, I fully appreciate that there are many of us out there who prefer to be defined and celebrated as a woman in the field. That equality and equal opportunity should be the goal regardless of how female you are, or how you define your professional skills as a woman.
I celebrate us all — because there is no one way to achieve this common goal of equality.