The fight for women’s equality
And what you can do to help
August 26th is National Women’s Equality Day. Nearly a century ago, the U.S. passed the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Let that sink in for a moment - how crazy is it that 100 years ago, women could not vote in the States? They could not exercise a basic civic right, simply because of their gender.
The fight for women’s equality (or gender equality) extends beyond any individual; it’s about changing perception, laws, and policies.
UN Women defines gender equality as “equalrights, responsibilities, and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys”. Equality is not just an issue for women. Inequality has social and financial implications as well. Simply put: Women’s rights are human rights.
Some sobering women’s equality facts
While women can now vote, we’re far from gender parity. Women all over the world deal with wage gaps (and the gap widens for minorities), domestic violence, gender biases, misogyny, not to mention underrepresentation in politics, entertainment, and leadership positions.
Only 20% of U.S. Congress is made up of women (The Washington Post)
Every year, 12 million girls are married before their 18th birthday. Globally, 1 in 5 girls becomes a mother before that age (UNICEF)
Nearly 7,000 adolescent girls aged 15 to 24 are infected with HIV every week (UNICEF)
Adolescent girls also have an increased risk of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment (UNICEF)
Only 5% of sexual assaults are reported to police (Canadian Women’s Foundation)
Every six days in Canada, a woman is killed by her partner (Canadian Women’s Foundation)
98 million girls who should be in secondary school are not (UNICEF)
A lack of open dialogue around menstruation and access to facilities and products means the health, welfare and educational prospects for millions of adolescent girls around the world are affected UNICEF)
6 in 10 women find it difficult to picture themselves as leaders (Canadian Women’s Foundation)
More than 1.5 million women in Canada live on a low income (One Spark)
Canada fell from 30th place to 35th place in the 2016 Global Gender Gap rankings by the World Economic Forum (Canadian Women’s Foundation)
However bleak the current state of things is right now, there’s also inspiring progress being made every day.
There are countless women’s organizations and movements working tirelessly towards the goal of equality. We're seeing more and more female candidates running for office and winning. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman to be elected to Congress. Strides are being made in sports, a historically male-centric industry. The U.S. women’s soccer team won gold in the Olympics and continues to fight for pay parity, and advocates like Serena Williams continues to fight for equal pay in tennis and beyond.
Last year, Iceland was the first country to pass a law that requires equal pay for equal work. Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on driving for women. The UN has dedicated one of its sustainable development goals to gender equality and women's empowerment.
But we can do more.
How you can help
Change won’t come overnight or with any one person - it’s each of our responsibilities to drive forward the change we want for our futures. What will help move the needle is governments’ involvement to push forward bills and laws to support equal pay, protection against sexual harassment, and much more.
You can participate by:
Learning about the current political issues
Getting out there and voting
Running for office
Donating or supporting organizations fighting for change
10 organizations fighting for women’s equality
One Girl Can: Supports a girl from the time she leaves primary school to the day she gains meaningful employment with education and mentorship
Girls Who Code: Helps close the gender gap in technology by creating a pipeline for future female engineers
Planned Parenthood: Has healthcare programs for low-income and marginalized individuals
Every Mother Counts: Improves medical care for mothers around the world by training professionals, improving transportation to care facilities, and donating crucial supplies to clinics
Run Like a Girl: Offers one-of-a-kind adventures in selected locations with curated itineraries that focus on diversity and personal growth
Equality Now: Works to put an end to unjust and gender-biased laws
Dress for Success: Helps women realize their professional goals by providing apparel they might not otherwise be able to afford
Global Fund for Women: Finances efforts toward equality - efforts include improving women's working conditions and ending human trafficking
Care.org’s Women Empowerment Fund: Funds a variety of international women’s empowerment programs, like those that fight poverty and aid in humanitarian efforts
Beauty Night: Helps improve the lives of impoverished women by offering wellness education, life skills development, and makeovers to boost self-esteem
Women’s Equality Day is an important day, but it’s something that we should be fighting for every day.