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International Women’s Day, which had its inception in the early 1900s, is celebrated on 8 March, 2018. It  is well known that this anniversary commemorates activism and the movement for women’s rights. This is a very extensive and significant matter for the progress of the world as a whole in order to achieve balanced and sustainable development economically and otherwise. While these observations are intended to touch upon key points in brief, it is intended to delve deeper into certain aspects in further contributions in the coming months.

This day was proposed by the International Women’s Conference in 1910 and was adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1975. As with our birthdays, this represents an annual special occasion and opportunity to review the year, the ways is which progress in gender equality has been made to enable the realisation of individual potential.  While recognising that this may be an inclusive debate, for the purpose of these observations we are reviewing the status of females internationally. We consider how much women have to date  achieved, advanced in their lives – including their career and vocational choices – or paths and roles. This includes the creative and more innovative ways in which women are contributing to the global community. Overall this continues to be a topical debate that is not a theoretical exercise – it affects lives individually and collectively in very many ways and can manifest in headlines in so many contexts, most recently in terms of sexual harassment in the workplace.

This year the UN theme is Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives. We also reflect again upon the need for all women to be recognised as equal citizens globally and not held back by unfair obstacles or challenges. Instances of gender inequality and lack of empowerment do continue, unfortunately, in various ways around the world, including women:

  • Being victims of all kinds of violence and harassment;
  • Not being dominant and therefore subject to unfair treatment;
  • Having their work or services undervalued in comparison with men;
  • Being underrepresented in political and corporate leadership;
  • Not having control over their reproductive and sexual health and well-being; and
  • Undertaking the main or major responsibility for household tasks and caregiving, even when also in employment.

In most jurisdictions and contexts there are both open and disguised examples of unfairness. In order to make positive change often what is required is a fresh eye and discussion, the implementation of appropriate ethical standards  and relevant regulatory frameworks and preventive -awareness raising – training for empowerment. More understanding, exchange of views, mutual respect, clarity and empathy, coupled with less undercurrents and hidden agendas, are the need of today. Well thought out policies, a system of confidential mentoring and coaching or counselling are so important – with safe whistleblower routes in place – in the workplace and in relevant venues. Rather than a flood of litigation and confrontational repercussions occurring often long after women are bullied , controlled, violated or excluded, a more mature pathway is required to give our young women the balanced life and future they deserve in order to be healthy and happy and to  realise their potential.

Dr Linda S Spedding
Founder of Women in Law