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Centenary of Women’s Suffrage: have we achieved gender equality?

In the UK, women were granted the right to vote 100 years ago.  All around the country this week people are celebrating this momentous decision and the unrelenting effort of the women who fought for their right to vote.

The world has greatly improved for women since we first received the vote. However, sadly, there are still so many women around the world who are suffering from violation against their human rights.  The following are some of these issues that we must address if we want to achieve the gender equality that the suffragettes were fighting for all those years ago.

The gender wage gap

The issue of the gender wage gap has made headlines recently when it was revealed that Michelle Williams was paid $1000 for a reshoot of a film. Whilst her male co-star Mark Wahlberg received $1.5 million for the same role.  Beyond Hollywood, the gender wage gap still exists in all areas of the working world as generally women in full-time jobs still only earn about 77 percent of that of men.

Female leaders

Beyoncé may have sung about girls running the world, but currently only twenty women hold office for head of state or head of government. 20 out of 315 world leaders.  In fact, the only country where both head of state and head of government is occupied by women is the UK.

Education

How many times have you not wanted to go to school? How many times have you moaned about your homework? We take the privilege of our education for granted whilst two thirds of the 781 million illiterate adults worldwide are women.

63 million girls are out of school, which is almost the same as the entire UK population.  Without this education, girls and women stand less chance of controlling their future and making a change in the world. As activist Malala Yousafzai said: ‘Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.’

Violence and abuse

Russian’s President Vladimir Putin recently signed a law that further decriminalises some forms of domestic violence. This is a giant step back, for a country where one woman dies every 40 minutes from domestic abuse. In the fight for gender equality it’s not only Russian woman who are suffering. 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence.

Sexist laws

If sexism is legal in a country, it becomes accepted, normalised and institutionalised. If sexist acts and sexist people have the backing and support of a powerful government, then it makes it near impossible for women to fight against inequality.

Over 150 countries have at least one actively sexist law that makes life difficult or even dangerous for women.  Many of these laws state that women are the possession of their husbands, which again gives them no independence to change their situation or the state of the world.

In our fight against gender inequality, how can you help?

  1. Locally – fight inequality hands on in your place of work or school. Teach your colleagues about how far we are from actually achieving gender equality. Guide them on how to act fairly towards both sexes.
  2. Nationally – volunteer with UK based charities, such as Fawcett Society, and campaign at women’s marches. In London on International Women’s Day (4th March), there is a March4Women starting in Trafalgar Square at midday.
  3. Internationally – support charities such as, HeForShe, who are working to change legislation using the power of the United Nations. Donate to grass-root organisations, like Equality Now, who are helping women in underdeveloped countries access their basic human rights.

Written by Florianne H.

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