By: Naomi Ohana (11th Grade)
For some, it is difficult to understand the need for International Women's Day in 2021. Living in America, many of us are privileged enough to not experience true sexism and inequality. Unfortunately, millions of women around the world continue to face enormous struggles and are denied their basic human rights. There is no country that has yet to achieve gender parity. Therefore, to me, International Women's Day is a time to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women and reflect on the progress still needed. Additionally, it is an opportunity for women all around the world to call for change, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women. Individuals are able to learn about and celebrate the incredible women who have contributed to the advancement of our society and the world. This day is not exclusive to a specific country, group, or organization, but rather, the day belongs to all different types of women everywhere.
Globally and historically, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation. Legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men, and the gender pay gap grossly underpays women for performing the same job as men. Throughout the world, countless young girls are being forced into dangerous marriages daily, estimated at over 650 million victims in total. Furthermore, women still have less access to education than men. Statistics have shown that 130 million girls around the world are unable to receive an education. Violence against women is frighteningly high; almost one third of all women have experienced a physically and/or sexually abusive relationship. Many would argue that the need for IWD is gone, but to me, an advocate for these issues, it is still extremely important. The day is and will continue to be vitally important if we are not to make the changes that we need to see so that all girls have the opportunity to realize their full potential as women.
It is so strange to me that young girls, particularly women who grew up with me, do not believe in the idea of feminism. Many accept the fallacy that women are inferior to men, and therefore should not be granted equal rights, while others simply have no stance on the topic at all. Change will not occur until all of us women come together embracing the same idea that we are deserving of the same rights and opportunities that men have been granted for centuries. One of my favorite TV shows is Law and Order: SVU. When people hear that, their initial reaction is shock and disbelief, asking me how I find that show entertaining. While it is not entertaining in the traditional sense, watching women who have been victimized receive justice grants me extreme comfort. It shows that although we still live in a world where women are forced to deal with the tragic reality of sexism, there are people in the world who strive for justice.
For years, women have been a part of incredible moments in history: from Rosa Parks standing up to racial injustice to Malala Yousafzai fighting for girls to receive the basic right of education. I, and other women born in the twentieth century, have been privileged enough to see our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and so many other women hold prestigious jobs. However, my mom told me of a common riddle when she was younger that would stump everyone: A father and son get into a car accident, and when the surgeon sees the patient, the doctor says, “I can’t operate on this boy; he’s my son.” For my mom’s generation, the idea that the doctor could have been the boy’s mother was not the natural assumption for the norm was not for women to be doctors. Today, there is no riddle to ponder as we know that the doctor could have been a woman.
Perhaps the rights we have been granted throughout history have in some way contributed to this apathy towards sexism. However, despite the incredible amount of progress women have made, our fight is far from over. It is our responsibility to use our privilege to help marginalized women throughout the world. That is why International Women’s Day is so important to me; it gives us the opportunity to celebrate the opportunities and achievements we have acquired, while helping us educate people all over the world about the injustices that still affect women today.