EDITORIAL: Progress, but women still feel helpless
LAST SATURDAY was celebrated as International Women’s Day. Such a day was conceived in the first decade of the 20th century as many advocates demanded voting rights for women and an end to gender discrimination in the workplace.
The day is unfortunately always being framed against the background of domestic violence and/or physical or emotional abuse of women.
The idea of a day specifically earmarked for recognition of women has spread worldwide and many of the original rights demanded have since then been achieved as a result of determined activists, who include both women and men.
While there has been significant progress there is still some way to go. However, there are many cultural and religious issues that militate against the advancement of many women around the globe. In these countries it would remain a Herculean task to advance the cause of women.
Women today not only vote but have become heads of governments and help to influence and shape social and economic policies that affect them, though we would admit upward mobility for them remains difficult. It is still however possible, as many women have demonstrated.
However, the fight for equal opportunities continues apace. Though women are heading banks, corporate houses and businesses, at the grassroot level, especially in the developing world, men continue to be paid more for the same work and the prejudice against hiring women in certain sectors still continues.
In other parts of the world, the toughest battle is still being fought by female children, sometimes even before they are born. Despite laws enacted to stop selective abortion or even tests to determine the sex of the foetus, societies in which sons continue to be valued more than daughters continue to practise gender-based abortion.
In addition, in times of turmoil women continue to bear the brunt of atrocities as mass rapes are conducted systematically to settle scores between warring nations and different ethnicities.
The society that does not care for its women is a society that will not progress. Ironically, they shape the society as in many countries women outnumber men in the population.
Therefore not to give the same education, training and opportunities to more than half the population means those societies will remain backward and undemocratic.
This is borne out by this year’s United Nations’ theme for the day: Equality For Women Is Progress For All.
In Barbados there has been considerable progress to the extent that women now outnumber men in our educational institutions.
In spite of that, many women still feel helpless and impotent and do not assert their considerable influence in a positive way on the family and the wider society.