Women don't need a Day, they need action
How telling a comment it is on our society when we have an International Day of the Woman every year which produces nothing more than hot air and yet every year the same charade is repeated. A look at the facts should make us hang our heads in shame.
Sixty long years ago, the equality of women was carved into the pages of the UN Charter, yet the trafficking of women and girls continues, women are disproportionately represented in the poorer sectors of society and those infected with HIV/AIDS, women have less opportunities in education in some countries and women's participation in government and decision-making processes is lower than that of men on a worldwide scale.
The Beijing Conference in 1995 highlighted the areas in which women were most vulnerable, calling for gender equality. Ten years on, what have we achieved? Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women, declared recently that "It is still a woman's face we see when we speak of poverty, of HIV/AIDS, of violent conflict and social upheaval, of trafficking in human beings". Rachel Mayanja, Special Advisor to Kofi Annan on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, adds that "gender inequality is deeply entrenched in policies, legislation, attitudes, traditions and societal institutions".
Yet Beijing came 20 years after the first women's conference in Mexico City, the same country which today generates a special UN report on violence against women. Murders, forced prostitution, sexual assaults, domestic violence and gender-based discrimination are all mentioned in the report drawn up by Yakin Erturk, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on violence against women. The report declares that "In the case of conviction, sentences are lenient", adding that there are "allegations that testimonies are sometimes obtained under torture".
Kofi Annan recently pointed out that of the 100 million children of school age out of school, most are girls, who often have to forego an education to become the main bread-winner to support the rest of the family. The boys go to school, move to the city, get a future, while the girls are left behind without any hope and without there being de facto any gender equality whatsoever in the world we live in.
Is today going to mark a real change in attitudes which will in turn produce results, or is it another of those days on which a lot of good words are said, only to be forgotten for another year?