The past few decades have seen important gains in women’s rights, including increasing numbers of women participating in political processes, decreases in maternal deaths and increased access to education for girls. Despite this progress, women and girls still face systematic and pervasive gender inequality in every aspect of their lives.
On the 8th March 2017, International Women’s Day, Oxfam will lend its voice to thousands of women and women’s organizations around the world that are coming together to say enough. We are supporting the International Women’s Strike, taking place in more than 40 countries in the world. These are just some of the reasons why:
1) Violence against women and girls is a global crisis
More than a billion women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime – that’s one in three women. Women and girls who face discrimination because of their race, disability, gender identity and sexuality and poverty, are impacted most.
2) Economic inequality affects more women than men
Women continue to be marginalized in the economy, overrepresented in the lowest-paid most insecure jobs. At the current rate of progress, it will take 170 years for women and men to be employed at the same rates, paid the same for equal work, and have the same levels of seniority. Globally, women earn 23% less than men. In New Zealand, there is still a significant gap. Here, women earn 13% less than men.
Issues such as tax dodging by wealthy individuals and corporations mean governments have less money to spend on the essential public services that poor women need.
3) Women do far more than their share of unpaid care work
Worldwide, women are still seen as primarily responsible for domestic work and taking care of children and elderly. This work is worth $10 trillion to the global economy each year, equivalent to over an eighth of the world’s entire GDP, and more than the GDPs of India, Japan and Brazil combined.
Women’s disproportionate responsibility for this work squeezes the amount of time that they have to go to school, earn a living and rest and recuperate.
4) Women’s rights to own land are under attack
Women, particularly indigenous women, are seeing their land rights eroded. Women are generally responsible for feeding their families but they are routinely denied access to land and incomes to buy food. Lack of access to land leaves women vulnerable and means when food is limited women go hungry first. 60% of the world’s hungry are women.
5) Women and girls are disproportionately affected by conflict
Conflicts threaten devastating consequences for everyone – but women and girls face particular impacts. In general, women and girls have access to fewer resources to protect and sustain themselves, are more often the deliberate target of gender-based violence. Although women have led and supported peace and recovery efforts in communities across the world, they remain largely excluded from political processes essential for peace and security.
6) Women are underrepresented in decision-making positions
In 2016, only 22% of all national parliamentarians were female, a slow rise from 11.3% in 1995. Furthermore, women often work in informal sectors that are harder to organize, face restrictions that mean their voices are not heard in labor movements, and are hampered by social norms that view participation in politics and public life as unsuitable roles for women.
7) Attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights
Rising fundamentalisms have seen increased attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights, particularly in women’s access to safe and legal abortion.
Among the health and economic impacts of unplanned or frequent pregnancies, lack of access to family planning services increases women’s unpaid care work and reduces their opportunities to find decent, well-paid jobs, as they shoulder the greater responsibility for taking care of children.
8) A different future is possible
Women coming together have fought for their rights and made huge progress on some of the issues they face.
Sadly, those gains are often fragile and the backlash against women stepping out of traditional roles and challenging the ideas societies hold about them has resulted in violence and the deaths of many courageous women’s rights activists, such as
Berta Cáceres who was brutally murdered last year. In their memory, and for all women and girls, both current and future generations, Oxfam offers our solidarity, our support and our pledge to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with women fighting for a better world.
The potential for lasting change lies in the hands of millions of women currently living in poverty. That’s why we put women’s rights at the heart of everything we do.