By Jenni Prisk
Jenni Prisk is the founder and President of Voices of Women, a group of peace-minded people who share a common commitment to education on international issues and U.S. foreign policy. They believe that women must be active participants in the formation of global policies. Their goal is to partner with other women around the world in this endeavor, with the full belief that a difference can be made.
March 8, 2014 is International Women’s Day (IWD) The theme for this year, created by the United Nations, is “Equality for Women is Progress for All.”
For more than 100 years, IWD has been celebrated globally. On March 8, 1908 a powerful protest of women garment workers took place in New York City. They went on strike for 13 cold winter weeks and they won the rights they were seeking.
A few close male friends have asked me “why do we need an international women’s day when we don’t have an international men’s day?” They make me smile, and because I like them, I don’t do them any harm. Despite the progress being made globally, women are still not treated equitably. So for one day a year this is an opportunity for women and the issues that beleaguer them to take prominence, in the hope that we can improve the state of women’s lives dramatically and permanently.
I started to wonder what the world would look like if women were treated equally. The birth of a girl would be fully celebrated and valued. In some countries it is not. She is viewed as a liability that must be sold to make money for her family.
As the girl becomes ready for school, she would go with her brothers, and be accepted in the classroom. She would be able to study science and math and other male-oriented topics without discussion or derision.
When she reached puberty, she wouldn’t have to leave school and go into hiding because she was menstruating. She would sit alongside her fellow students as a fully functioning woman.
She wouldn’t undergo female genital mutilation that is practiced in many countries today. Instead, she would develop as a woman with all her childbearing organs in tact. The threat of being trafficked for sex wouldn’t hang over her, because she would have self-esteem and the ability to say “no!” Nor would she be hanging around on the streets because she would be safe at school.
When the time came for her to attend university, she would apply to the top schools and be accepted on the merits of her educational prowess. And she would discuss and debate with her fellow students who wouldn’t see gender disparity.
As she grew as a woman, her rights would be automatic. She would be selected for a professional position because of her academic qualifications. She would receive the same salary as the men in her company. Equal pay for equal status would be recognized.
She could sit on corporate boards, and receive all the benefits afforded to the men-folk. In any kind of profession she chose, she would be recognized and acknowledged for her worth.
When it came time for marriage to a man, or to a woman, she would make her own choice. She would be able to regulate her own body to have children when the time was right for her. A body of men would not govern her body.
Given this gender equality she would raise her daughters to be educated and well informed. She would raise her sons to be respectful of girls and women and to see them as equals.
Now, you may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. Hillary Rodham Clinton announced last year that she will lead a “full and clear- eyed” review of the advances made for worldwide women’s equality and the obstacles that remain as the 20th anniversary of the historic Beijing women’s conference draws near.
So what can we do? We can promote women at every opportunity. We can emphasize education for our daughters. We can arrange discussions on women’s rights—they are, after all, human rights. We can research the Millennium Development Goals and the Beijing +20 manifesto. We can get all our guys involved in the women’s equality movement. We can all make a difference! After all, equality for women is progress for all. Just imagine!