International Women’s Day 2017- A Call for Change

A few days ago the World marked the 2017 International Women’s Day. The two dominant themes for the year are “Be Bold for Change” sponsored by Ernst and Young and “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” by the United Nations. Both themes underscore the urgent need for Change. Change in our individual and collective actions in support of bridging the gap between men and women in all major spheres of life.

A gap which available indicators show, that current efforts are much too slow in addressing. The gap may indeed be sadly increasing rather than decreasing. We know this because the World Economic Forum’s prediction for closure of the gender gap has ironically moved forward from the Year 2133 to the Year 2186.The gap will therefore take an additional 53 years to close going by the present state of affairs. A situation which must surely be intolerable to all.

In many places, in many countries, women continue to be paid less for the same job done- continue to be less educated and less appreciated. Women continue to have fewer opportunities for advancement. They continue to suffer the indignities of sexual abuse and assault. Continue to have less access to facilities in support of their health and education. They continue to battle legal and other institutional structures which not only do not protect their rights sufficiently but often perpetuate the inequalities and injustices that exist.

The case for young women is even more severe. Within many cultures where male preference remains the norm, young girls have less chances or opportunities for education and less access to health facilities especially reproductive health facilities. They are the most vulnerable to physical, emotional and sexual assaults, sometimes within the very families that are expected to nurture and protect them.

And yet so much hard evidence exists that conclusively show that when a woman is empowered through good education, good health and through better economic opportunities, that children and families thrive and indeed that whole nations thrive. Our world can only truly progress when we put vigorous action behind this reality.  

But even before we go ahead and do the needful by discussing what should be done, we would like at this point to acknowledge the many successes the world has witnessed in recent times towards the advancement of women’s rights. We would like to doff our hats to the many remarkable women in the past and present, who have done their bit to move this cause forward.

We start by acknowledging the sheer courage, determination and indomitable spirit of Hilary Rotherham Clinton, who despite the risks, dared to compete for the highest Office in the United States of America. She did not win but she brought inspiration to many, especially to the many young women across the globe. Someday they will, emulating her courage and action, bring down and shatter the proverbial Glass Ceiling. We honor Michelle Obama. The first black woman in the White House and who fulfilled that role with courage, brilliance, dignity and wisdom. We honor Malala Yousafzai who despite her young age, formidable cultural barriers, and personal suffering, continues to be a champion for women’s rights and advancement. We honor young women like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who demonstrate not only amazing talents and gifts but also have the courage and boldness to speak out in support of the change that is required for the advancement of women everywhere. We honor so many other women across the world- young and old – too numerous to mention, who continue to do their bit to advance the cause of women and to make the world a better place.

So what should we be doing differently to catalyze the closure of the gender gap???  We believe this year’s call for change is apt and timely. Change is needed – change which would involve a more vigorous and concerted action in tracking indicators of progress in every sector. Indicators which will help us understand how much of that progress is reaching women especially young women. Every year as we mark this Day, these indicators would be made available to all and the day actually marked, hopefully by advancement and not mere rhetoric. We need more action towards using this evidence for putting in place policies and programs that address the needs of women in education, health and job opportunities. We need more action in enacting, implementing and enforcing laws and policies that protect women and girls and ensure their rights. And finally we need more resources financial and otherwise devoted to these efforts at all levels.

Conversation for Change (C4C) takes the need for this change very seriously. And so we have commenced a Young Female Mentorship Initiative. This Initiative strives to contribute to other efforts for the empowerment of women in general but especially young women, who are the most vulnerable. We shall be raising funds to support young women’s tuition in in schools. We are establishing a Young Women’s Support Group, which will provide opportunities for them to meet regularly to discuss and find solutions to their problems.  We shall be organizing Seminars which would expose young women to established women and men in all spheres of life - who will share their experiences and lessons learned as they made their journey to success. We have also started publishing a series of Posts which we hope will inspire and support their advancement.

We are determined to put action behind our call for action and so truly work for the change we need for women, especially young women everywhere.