Every day is Women’s Day

FROM A DISTANCE - Veronica Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

It’s International Women’s Day 2020 tomorrow, bringing mixed feelings for me. I think I am a feminist but I dislike the way there’s a special day for women. I want people to treat women better every day, and not just on a piecemeal basis.

These international days have been around since before the United Nations was formed, nowadays the UN General Assembly votes on whether to adopt a proposed day. Take a look at the International Days that are currently observed and they’re a fascinating reflection of the range of issues that the UN works on. Each has a story that involves the world but there are so many and seem so random, that there’s a risk the issues are trivialized.

The first up after International Women’s Day is International Day of Happiness on the 20th of March, World Tuna Day is on the 2nd of May, International Day of Families is on the 15th of May, International Day of the Tropics is on the 29th of June, and World Day Against Trafficking in Persons is on 30th July. Those are just a few.

Some have more universal appeal than others and International Women’s Day has gained more and more interest through the years. Women’s rights campaigners used the date to campaign for peace on the eve of World War 1, as well as the right to vote in 1913-14. Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” responding to the deaths of 2 million Russian soldiers during the war.on the 8th March 1917.

It seemed as if the world had lost interest by 2000, the last half of the 20th century saw enormous changes in the way society and women themselves viewed their roles. There are many more women managers in corporations and governments; women can work and have families; and millions more girls can go to university.

This year’s International Women’s Day comes as the women’s rights cause is having something of a renaissance. Harvey Weinstein’s conviction in New York came after months of publicity that focused on the courage of the women he attacked who’d come forward. The “Me Too Movement” became a hashtag as a way of revealing the extent of sexual harassment and assault by showing how many people were coming forward with their stories of being attacked.

Women are still not paid as much as their male counterparts, nor are there as many in business or politics, and around the world women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

Depriving women of their rights has been recognised as a major obstacle to sustainable development in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. If you look at the goal, its associated targets, and indicators, the enormity of the tasks that are to be done within the next 15 years is all too apparent.

The goal itself is by 2030 to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. The first associated target is to “End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere”, to be measured by “Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non?discrimination on the basis of sex”.

In the Philippines we have Republic Act 7192: Women in Development & National Building Act; Executive Order No. 273: Approving and Adopting the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development, 1995-2025; and Republic Act 9710: An Act Providing for the Magna Carta of Women. The legal framework is in place, meeting the target but it’s not enough to end discrimination.

The next targets include eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls, and eliminating all harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority submitted in October shows that there’s been a significant drop in reported cases of gender based violence between 2016 to 2017, but there aren’t any new data for other indicators.

Another target: Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate. It is not even mentioned in the PSA’s October preliminary submission.

However, data is supplied to measure how the Philippines is doing on the next target: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life. It turns out that women far outnumber men (79%) at the level of city, ie vice mayors and city councillors, but they’re outnumbered at every other level of local government and in Congress.

The target to: Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in various international documents will not be reached because one indicator is laws and regulations that guarantee full and equal access to women and men aged between 15 and 18 years to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education. The Philippines’ Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law does not provide for minors’ full access to sexual and reproductive health care services without parent’s consent because of the Family Code.

The latest UN Women report that reviews women’s rights 25 years after the landmark conference in Beijing, warns that progress towards gender equality is lagging and hard-fought gains are being reversed. “This is not an inclusive and equal world and we need to take action now to create one that does not discriminate against women. Only half is an equal share and only equal is enough,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women.

It’s been released to coincide with International Women’s Day, but with so much to be done that requires enormous sustained political will, it bothers me that people may just find it easier to forget about women’s rights till next year.

The IWD campaign says the theme this year is #EachforEqual because they say each of us can do something to strive for equality. I don’t think it’s enough to post on social media, or turn up for an event that’s being marketed as linked to IWD.

What about waking up every morning and deciding positively and actively not to harm any woman or girl, but to promote and protect their rights? Improving women’s choices improves everyone’s lives; I’ll be acting locally and thinking globally to make every day women’s day.

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