… for gender equality, empowerment and human right in democratic Gambia
International Woman’s Day is over 100 years old. It is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Although the focus of the day is on women, it is not an anti-male event. Both sexes suffer from opposing ideals of gender roles. For example, women are still very much expected to raise children, while stay-at-home dads are stigmatised. Most societies cast fathers as breadwinners and mothers as primary caregivers. These roles are upheld by the gender pay gap (British women earn an average of 17.4% less than men in similar full-time jobs), unequal parental leave and mother-centrist family services.
Gambian women kicking off Women’s History Month by recognising the achievements of the legendary women who are blazing their own historical trails on International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day (IWD) occurs Sunday, March 8, 2020 and we are excited to be celebrating the beauty, diversity, and achievements of women all over the world. This monumental day doesn’t just celebrate a single woman, country, or organisation, but recognises women everywhere who are inspiring others to do better, make a difference, and evoke change.
FGM: Everything you need to know about female genital mutilation
The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is a form of violence against women and girls that has been around for more than a thousand years.
While its origins are unclear, eradicating the practice will bring the world one step closer to achieving gender equality — and ending FGM is a key part of the United Nations’ Global Goal 5, for achieving gender equality by 2030.
So, what is FGM? It’s essentially the practice of partially cutting or entirely removing the external female genitalia, and also includes any other harm or injury caused to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The practice of FGM only recently became an international human rights’ concern, with the largest global awareness campaign only becoming established in 2008, and in 2012 the United Nations General Assembly officially designated 6 February to be the international day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation.
The procedure was initially recognised as female circumcision. This term changed in order to encompass all forms of FGM and also to distinguish the vast differences between the term “female circumcision” and the practice of male circumcision. Just one of these differences being that health experts in southern and eastern Africa actually recommend male circumcision as a way to reduce HIV transmission, whereas FGM actually increases the risk of HIV transmission.
Today, FGM directly affects young girls more than older women, however 200 million women around the world have experienced and lived through the harmful practice, leaving many living with its long-term impacts.
How many people does it affect?
According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that 200 million girls and women alive today have experienced FGM — and over 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing the practice every year. The rate of FGM is also increasing, in line with global population growth.
If the rate of FGM continues to increase, the UNFPA estimates that 68 million girls will undergo the procedure between 2015 and 2030 — with the number of girls every year projected to rise to 4.6 million in 2030.
Who is affected?
Young girls from just days after birth up until the age of 15 are most commonly cut, however the practice can also have long-term effects that impact women for the rest of their lives. It is also known to be practiced at different stages of a woman’s life, for example at the time of marriage or even after they give birth.
It is predominantly practiced in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, however young girls in communities around the world are also at risk of FGM.
The practice is still present, legally and illegally in some African, Asian, Middle-Eastern, Eastern European, and Southern American countries.
It is also present in western countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US, the UK, and parts of Europe among immigrant or diaspora populations who’ve continued the tradition from different countries.
Although it has been banned in many countries, some communities avoid legal repercussions by participating in cross-border FGM. This is where girls living in a country where the tradition is banned, are taken across national borders to a country where it is not against the law to undergo FGM.
What impact does it have on people’s lives?
FGM has physical, psychological, and social impacts on people’s lives.
The direct physical impact it has is on the health and safety of the girls who experience FGM.
The health risks of the practice include bleeding, infection, higher risk of maternal and infant mortality, infertility, higher risk of contracting HIV, difficulty menstruating, painful urination, and urinary tract infections.
FGM can also cause short-term and long term psychological trauma. In the short term it can trigger behavioral disturbances in children, which are closely linked to a loss of trust in their families or caregivers. In the longer term, women can experience anxiety and depression.
Finally, the tradition can have social impacts on individuals and families.
In areas where it is deemed an essential rite of passage, not undergoing cutting can result in social exclusion of families and girls are often stigmatised and discriminated against. According to the UNFPA, some undergo FGM with the knowledge that it is harmful simply because the perceived social benefits of taking part in the tradition are considered to outweigh its disadvantages.
Empowerment: a strong, purposeful, and powerful word…one that is always followed by an impactful, inspiring story to tell. Women in solar are empowerment personified. They continue to break gender stereotypes as well as inequity barriers, and encourage as well as invite other women to join along the way. Their empowerment reflects amplifying women’s self-worth, hearing their own voices, instilling confidence in their abilities, and believing that they too can create change. And the world is reminded that their stories matter, their perspectives matter, their dreams matter!
At remote energy, women’s programming is aligned with women’s empowerment, we believe it’s the first step in building a gender-balanced solar industry. Learning from women, training with women, and providing a safe space for women, is our specialty. We globally connect with them, remotely and in-person, with opportunities to become educated in solar and make their mark in the industry.
The earliest women’s day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York, and organised by the Socialist Party of America. Though it has been claimed that the event was commemorating a strike, researchers have found no evidence of this. The story that the day originated in a protest by women garment workers in New York on March 8, 1857, has been described as a myth.
In August 1910, an international women’s conference was organised to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual international woman’s day (singular) and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified at that conference.
Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women. The following year on March 19, 1911 IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations. In Vienna, women paraded on the Ring Strasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune. Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office.
They also protested against employment sex discrimination. Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
The idea of this theme is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and number 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. The theme will also focus on new commitments under UN Women’s Step It Up initiative, and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights. By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.
By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education. End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere. Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation. Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
The world of work is changing, and with significant implications for women. On one hand, we have globalisation, technological and digital revolution and the opportunities they bring, and on the other hand, the growing informality of labour, unstable livelihoods and incomes, new fiscal and trade policies and environmental impacts—all of which must be addressed in the context of women’s economic empowerment.
The world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation may feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality.
The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. However, great improvements have been made.
We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so, each year the world inspires women and celebrates their achievements
The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc. with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, and government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatrics performances, fashion parades and more. Many global corporations actively support IWD by running their own events and campaigns.
For example, on 8 March search engine and media giant Google often changes its Google Doodle on its global search pages to honour IWD. Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status.
So, make a difference, think globally and act locally! Make every day International Women’s Day.
Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.
International Women’s Day: Gambian Women speak
As the world celebrates yet another International Women’s Day today, on the global theme: “Pledge for Parity”, and on the National theme: “women empowerment a sustainable development”, our reporter Halimatou Ceesay yesterday met with some women to seek their opinion on the importance of the day, and the way forward.
How You Can Celebrate
International Women’s Day continues to raise awareness on bias, stereotypes, and equality in every aspect of life whether it’s at home, in the workplace, or in your local community. You don’t have to be a famous celebrity, activist, or leader to get involved in IWD, here are a few ways you can support #EachforEqual and women everywhere.
Support non-profit organisations that work to defend women’s rights, collaborate with female-led brands, companies, and influencer, hold an IWD celebration at work such as profiling amasing women on your website, attend a women’s networking event, volunteer as a mentor for a younger person in your industry.
There are numerous ways you can get involved in International Women’s Day and celebrate the amasing women who have devoted themselves to changing the economic, political, and social landscape for women all over the world. Whether you’re sharing your #EachforEqual picture on social media or doing something kind for the women in your life, there is no shortage of ways to get involved!
For further information contact the author on: [email protected], Whatsapp – 002207774469
Dr H Azadeh, senior lecturer at the University Of The Gambia, clinical director at the Medicare Health Services.