I normally do not spend much time thinking about International Women’s Day. It has always been a passing day that I vaguely acknowledge and move on with my life. It seems like there should be more reflection, but the reality is that this is how most women in the western world and other developed countries view the day.
We sit behind our computers and join the #MeToo and the #TimesUp campaigns while sitting on our butts at our 8 to 4 jobs. I am not saying that these campaigns are not significant — they are. Women all over the world have used these campaigns to take back their voices and fight for a future where those hashtags become non-existent. But, the plight of women of colour, LBT women, and women from developing countries, often goes unnoticed.
With the advancement of women’s rights from gaining the right to vote, work, and get an education, to laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, some of us have become comfortable where we are. However, there is so much more to do. Complacency only allows injustice to reign. There are still many issues that need to be tackled, including rights that apply to our LBT sisters, who still have a hard time finding work, proper healthcare, and even housing. We must continue to tackle the issue of gender parity that the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2017 predicts will not be rectified for another 200 years. We must acknowledge our sisters in Nigeria who have gone missing after Boko Haram attacked their school and the girls in all countries that fear for their safety and freedom.
There is still work to be done and as we acknowledge this, we must also celebrate the women who have pioneered the way for others. Individuals like Maya Angelou, Frida Kahlo, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the daughter of Grenada, Audre Lorde who laid the foundation for women to express themselves. Women like Malala Yousafzai who refused to bow to societal pressures that denied girls the right to an education. Even after a failed assassination attempt by the Taliban, Malala continued her advocacy and later became one of the youngest persons to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Women like Kenita Placide whose office was burnt to the ground in her home country of St Lucia, and rather than give up, she persevered, continuing to be a shining beacon of hope for LGBT rights, HIV awareness and human rights activism in the Caribbean. We must also celebrate the common hero, honour the women who raised our leaders and fighters, the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, sisters. The women that are always able to take the little they have and make sure their family has all they need. The women that bear the task of raising not only their children but also the children around them, looking out for all as their own. These women that are the foundation of most societies, especially those in the Caribbean.
With these heroes in mind, we look to the future of our nation, and the future of the world in the next generation of strong women. We must empower our daughters to take up the torch and light the way forward inclusive of the experiences of all women, regardless of orientation, colour, place of origin and socioeconomic status. With a solid foundation from those who have come before us, we must look forward to celebrating the strides that this new generation of women will make in fields once dominated by men. Let us foster innovation in our daughters and watch them transform the world like our mothers did before us, and as we strive to do now.
We have much to be grateful for, and so many women to thank for many of the rights and privileges we take for granted, but now is not the time for complacency. It is time that we all do something. Let us shatter the glass ceiling and any obstacles in our way. Instead of merely discussing the challenges we have before us, let us commemorate International Women’s Day by highlighting the progress that women have made around the world and empower future generations. Let our voices be heard, and our stories told.
On 8 March let us empower all women to fight against societal expectations and forge a new path, remembering the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – “well-behaved women seldom make history.” Let us make history.