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International Women’s Day 2018: Taking Stock Of The Women Empowerment Progress

Significant Progress Has Been Made But There’s Still A Long Way To Go 


Every year for over a century on the 8th of March, the world places the spotlight on recognising the socioeconomic and political inequalities women face and celebrates the achievements that have been made to overcome these barriers. The day has been observed for more than 100 years starting with the suffragettes, in the early 1900s, where the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911.

This year, International Women’s Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movements championing women’s rights, equality and justice. From the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns that have brought sexual harassment, femicide and equal pay to the forefront of international attention, 2018 has seen numerous momentous wins for women’s rights thus far. With that in mind, here are the major countries and global campaigns that have been making huge strides in levelling the playing field for women in the past year.

Iceland The First Country To Make It Illegal to Pay Men More Than Women

Iceland started 2018 with a new law making it illegal for companies to pay men higher wages than women. under this new ruling, companies are expected to compensate equal pay for equal work – irrespective of gender ethnicity, sexuality or nationality. This measure that aims to close the country's gender pay gap by 2022, companies with over 25 employees will have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies and those that fail to prove their pay equality will face a fine.

Saudi Arabia Allows Women To Drive For The First Time

Saudi Arabia announced in September that it will allow women to drive for the first time, ending a policy that has been widely criticised internationally as a human rights violation. The change that is slated to come into action this June is a major win for the Saudi activists that have been protesting for the ban to be overruled since the 1990s.

For years the only country to bar women from driving has come under media fire and received negative attention for detaining women who defied the ban.

The progressive development follows a decade of incremental change in Saudi Arabia that has seen more women working in retail and being appointed top executive roles at the Saudi stock exchange and the airport in Dammam. Saudi women can now also be appointed to the Shoura Council and run in municipal elections.

Sex With Minors Now Considered Rape In India

Overturning an outdated law, India's Supreme Court ruled in October last year that sex with an underage wife, younger than 18, with or without her consent, constitutes rape. Any husband convicted of committing such an act can face up to 10 years in prison or even a life term.

The decision overturned a previous clause that permitted men to have sex with a married girl as young as 15, according to reports from the Indian Express. This legal loophole has been routinely exploited to traffic minor girls into sexual slavery both in and outside India.

The US #MeToo Campaign That Sparked A Global Revolution

In this digital age, one can never underestimate the power and reach of social media in protesting for global change. The sexual harassment and assault allegations against Hollywood's Harvey Weinstein that sparked a flurry of allegations in other American industries and the international outcry that ensued is a case in point.

Nearly half of all the “#metoo” mentions on Twitter since the movement began was posted from outside the US, and decades-old accusations have led to the downfall of some powerful men in other countries. 

Since news about Weinstein first surfaced, women in France have increased their complaints about sexual abuse to police, on social media, in street protests and through petitions. The French Interior Ministry also reported a spike in women reporting rape, sexual assault and harassment by almost a third in October, compared to October 2016.


So We’ve Achieved A lot But Have We Reached Gender Parity?

While huge strides have been made across the world, there is still a lot more that needs to be done before gender parity is finally achieved in its totality.

In a sobering indictment of the state of global gender parity, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report predicts it would still require a couple of centuries at current rate to put right the inequalities and injustices that women around the world currently face.

The report benchmarks 144 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four areas — economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. Even Iceland that has been ranked by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the world's most gender-equal country for the last nine years is 12 years short from gender parity, according to the report.

As we take the day to celebrate the massive success that has been achieved, it's important we also take stock of what more needs to be done to ensure the global momentum that has been built up is continually translated in to action and legislative reforms.

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