Marking International Women’s Day ought to go well beyond celebrations

09Mar 2019
The Guardian
Marking International Women’s Day ought to go well beyond celebrations

IT is impossible to explain in a few words precisely how the world or even individual countries marked International Women’s Day 2019 – yesterday. There just cannot be a common denominator, as it were, to attain such a goal.

Suffice it to say, perhaps, that “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” had been picked as a theme for the Day. It is definitely much too early to engage in meaningful discussion on the degree to which countries, nations and people across the globe have translated that theme into action.

What is of utmost importance for now, though, is that the theme was meant to focus on innovative ways in which humankind could advance gender equality and the empowerment of all girls and women, particularly with regard to social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.

Equally of relevance, as those behind preparations for the celebration of IWD 2019 obviously knew, is that the achievement of the ambitious 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires transformative shifts, integrated approaches and new solutions.

The institutions and agencies charged with overseeing the countdown to the celebrations which segments of humankind will have witnessed this March 8 could scarcely have had any illusions as to the extent to which existing interventions could have helped in efforts to achieve what is known as Planet 50-50 by the year 2030 target.

All the same, there is no denying that innovative approaches that positively disrupt the status quo play a decisive role in doing away with stumbling blocks make it possible for e very woman and girl to have a more rewarding future.There is no doubt whatsoever that, as globally acknowledged, access to innovation and technology provides unparalleled opportunities. However, the gains are yet to trickle down effectively enough to ensure equitable representation of women in such fields as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

By logical extension, the argument here is that the world would be all the better off and better if women’s ideas and experiences found a reliable platform from which to substantially influence the design and implementation of the innovations meant to shape the world and nations of tomorrow and thereafter.

Those directly behind all levels and stages of the run-up to IWD 2019 had expected support for the likes of industry leaders, game-changing start-ups, social entrepreneurs, gender equality activists and women innovators.

They saw these as agents able engage innovation in, as they declared for all to see and hear, “removing barriers and accelerating progress for gender equality, encouraging investment in gender-responsive social systems, and building services and infrastructure that meet the needs of women and girls”.

They moved around on a hugely optimistic note: “On March 8, 2019, join us as we celebrate a future in which innovation and technology creates unprecedented opportunities for women and girls to play an active role in building more inclusive systems, efficient services and sustainable infrastructure to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs and gender equality.”

That was a dream based on great hope. Whether the dream will have come true remains to be seen.

The 1948 International Declaration of Human Rights rightly reiterates the sanctity of equality between men and women, which is why we all ought to join forces with all those whose intervention helps in pulling down barriers making it hard for women to enjoy their basic rights to the full.

Those who we have been doing so have cause to congratulate themselves on a job well done, while defaulters have an obligation to join the team and fight along – for the good of the whole of humankind. Paying lip-service to the struggle will be counter-productive.

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