What Does it Mean to be a Woman in 2012?
In this blog series, I try to shine light on positive experiences and progress towards equality for women. But these “bright spots” don’t change the overall picture—that empowering women is still an uphill struggle. As International Women’s Day approaches again this year on March 8th, I am constantly reminded of the painful, oppressive, and unjust practices that continue to afflict women and girls worldwide..
If it were somehow possible to average out the experiences of all women into a “typical woman,” the picture would be bleak. Compared to men, women are devalued in the workplace, the home, and the community.
In many countries in the Global South, girls are likely to be married before they turn 18, often against their free will.
In the U.S., men are fighting over women’s access to contraceptives and reproductive freedoms. A woman earns merely 77 cents to every dollar a man makes for comparable work.
Over 100 million women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation. In Cameroon, one in four pubescent girls is subjected to “breast ironing”—having her breasts crushed or burned to make her less attractive to men before she marries.
Married or unmarried, millions of women worldwide have an unmet need for family planning. Girls and women may not have access to an education. Women farmers lack access to the same resources as men, so their farms have lower yields. In most of the world, especially in Asia and South America, a woman is more likely than a man to go hungry.
But it isn’t all bad news. Increasing a woman’s empowerment can bring her and her children out of poverty, improve her likelihood to use contraceptives and plan her pregnancies, use condoms to prevent HIV, encourage her to fight against practices that harm women and girls in her village or community, increase production on a farm, send her to school, and walk away from an abusive relationship, to name a few.
Inequality is an issue for men and women. Part of the way forward is for men and women around the world to speak up about the injustice around them, and to celebrate positive changes.
Please share with us what it means to be a woman in 2012 from your perspective.