International Women's Day - it is only by collective action that this dream can become a reality
08 Mar 2016On International Women’s day, as we reflect on the fight for gender parity across the world, it is important to recognise that one of the biggest fights for women is the battle against poverty.
Poverty is the most sexist of afflictions; all around the globe, it disproportionately affects women more than men.
Women are deprived of more economic and social opportunities that men in every country, and the gap widens only in poor countries.
Much of this is because women face unique barriers that limit their ability to escape poverty.
These include a lack of access to credit, inheritance, good jobs and sometimes equal rights and protection under the law.
But there are also purely cultural barriers that stand in the way of women trying to escape poverty. Not only are women less likely than men to be compensated for their work due to a pay gap which widens with poverty, but also because governments, including the British government, do not reward professions dominated by women such as care work and early childhood education.
Globally, only half of women participate in the labour market, compared with 77% of men. In many countries, despite their increased access to education, access to the labour market for women has not caught up, leaving many with marketable skills unemployed.
Women do three times more unpaid work than men and on average do five more hours in child care and housework each day, on top of any other work they do to support themselves and their family. Despite this, this work is rarely supported by the state. In India, for example, less than 1% of women receive paid maternity leave.
The world needs to do more to extend labour market rights like maternity and paternity leave; extend early childhood education services that meet the needs of children and their caregivers; and encourage fathers to take more responsibility for childcare. We must be doing nothing short of working towards the elimination of traditional gender roles.
To do this, governments must start by repealing laws that discriminate against women and enshrine those that protect them.
As people today celebrate how women’s contribution and call for change, we must join together to ensure an equal opportunity for both women and men. And it is only by collective action that this dream can become a reality.