‘Hope is being able to see that there is light, despite all the darkness”

In the past year, the world has seen a disturbing regression in women’s rights: from the de-criminalisation of domestic violence, to normalisation of rape culture; the entrenchment of financial and wage inequality to a rise in femicide and sex trafficking…even as far as a relapse in women’s reproductive and sexual rights legislation to the policing of their clothing styles.  

Though the picture just painted seems bleak, the future of women’s rights is not. When we consider the recent Women’s Marches, we can see a sense of renewed female energy, activism and solidarity. Held in over 60 countries, the marches united 4.8 million men, women and children in their support of women’s and human rights. The determination, drive and anger of the women who organised and participated in these demonstrations is not something new, and is justified. It is an old force of resistance which has triggered positive change for women in the past, and will continue to do so.

As International Women’s Day approaches, it is important to remember to celebrate women’s achievements, and work harder towards their empowerment. Women continue to make important gains in the fields of sports, science, politics, medicine, law, and human rights, amongst other things. The number of women in parliaments around the globe- whilst still seriously low at 22%- is almost double the percentage it was at 20 years ago. Despite the unconscious bias that prevents women graduates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) from finding employment as easily as their male counterparts, the former are seeing increased support from organisations and governments in these fields. Similarly, though an International Labour Organisation study in 83 countries has found that women earn 10-30% less than men globally, however, that the gender pay gap is slowly (TOO slowly) beginning to shrink. Perhaps in the field of human rights we are seeing the largest change. 1 in 3 women worldwide report suffering from physical and sexual abuse, stats that are not helped by various governments, such as the Russian and Haitian, to de-criminalise domestic violence. The more popular trend, however, has been to introduce and enforce legislation aimed at reducing the abuse of women, as seen in China, Morocco and Brazil.

It is also important to remember that all of these advancements in women’s rights are not the natural result of living in the 21st century. They are the result of a mix of changing attitudes and actions; by empowering women and girls to follow their dreams, recognising their need for respect and equal opportunities, and encouraging them to march and protest when they fear that their basic human rights are at stake, we drive this change.

So, we will stay angry and we will stay active, and as long as we do, there is hope.

By Hilal Nur Kuyruk
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