Today is International Women’s Day, a day which brings to the fore the women’s rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women.
Spurred on by the universal female suffrage movement that had begun in New Zealand, IWD originated from labour movements in North America and Europe during the early 20th century. The earliest version was purportedly a Women’s Day organised by the Socialist Party of America in New York City on February 28, 1909. This inspired German delegates at the 1910 International Socialist Women’s Conference to propose a special Women’s Day be organised annually, albeit with no set date; the following year saw the first demonstrations and commemorations of International Women’s Day across Europe. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917 which was the beginning of the February Revolution, International Women’s Day was made a national holiday on March 8; it was subsequently celebrated on that date by the socialist movement and communist countries. The holiday was associated with far-left movements and governments until its adoption by the global feminist movement in the late 1960s. International Women’s Day became a mainstream global holiday following its adoption by the United Nations in 1977. The UN observes the holiday in connection with a particular issue, campaign, or theme in women’s rights.
International Women’s Day is a day when women can imagine a gender-equal world, a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive an a world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together and collectively, women’s equality can be forged and equity embraced.
And Embrace Equity is the theme for this year’s IWD. Equity isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. A focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society’s DNA and it is critical to understand the difference between equity and equality. The words equity and equality are often used interchangeably. Etymologically, the root word they share is aequus, meaning even, fair or equal – which led to equity being from the Latin aequitas, and equality from aequalitas. Yet, despite these similarities, equity and equality are inherently different concepts, and the IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme seeks to help forge worldwide conversations about this important issue and its impact.
So, what’s the difference between equity and equality – and why is it important to understand and acknowledge this? Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. Equity can be defined as giving everyone what they need to be successful. In other words, it’s not giving everyone the same thing. If we give everyone the same thing, expecting that will make people equal, it assumes that everyone started in the same place – and this can be vastly inaccurate because everyone isn’t the same.
We can all truly embrace equity. It should not be just something we say or write about. It’s something we need to think about, know, and embrace. It’s what we believe in, unconditionally. Equity means creating an inclusive world. All of us, irrespective of gender can play a part in creating an inclusive world by actively supporting and embracing equity within our sphere of influence. We can and should challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion. Collective activism is what drives change. From grassroots action to wide-scale momentum, we can all embrace equity. Forging gender equity isn’t limited to women solely fighting the good fight. Allies are incredibly important for the social, economic, cultural, and political advancement of women.
Over at the United Nations, the theme for International Women’s Day is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality. This theme highlights the need for inclusive and transformative technology and digital education.
The United Nations recognises and celebrates the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education. This IWD will explore the impact of the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities and will also spotlight the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online and ICT-facilitated gender-based violence. Bringing women and other marginalised groups into technology results in more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality. Their lack of inclusion, by contrast, comes with massive costs. As per the UN Women’s Gender Snapshot 2022 report, women’s exclusion from the digital world has shaved $1 trillion from the gross domestic product of low-and middle-income countries in the last decade—a loss that will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2025 without action. Reversing this trend will require tackling the problem of online violence, which a study of 51 countries revealed 38 percent of women had personally experienced.
A gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology, and digital education can increase the awareness of women and girls regarding their rights and civic engagement. Advancements in digital technology offer immense opportunities to address development and humanitarian challenges and to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, the opportunities of the digital revolution also present a risk of perpetuating existing patterns of gender inequality. Growing inequalities are becoming increasingly evident in the context of digital skills and access to technologies, with women being left behind as the result of this digital gender divide. The need for inclusive and transformative technology and digital education is therefore crucial for a sustainable future.
Lets us all celebrate women’s achievements today and raise awareness about the discriminations we face. Let’s take action to drive gender parity and embrace equity.