This Friday is International Women’s Day. It was first observed on February 28, 1909, in New York, before women had the right to vote. Over the years, the day has changed flavours, from an expression of respect, appreciation and love towards women, to a declaration of women’s rights and a celebration for female economic, political, and social achievements.
I feel grateful that on this day, the beauty, power and grace of women, who not only have contributed to cultural evolution and her-story (a.k.a. his-tory) but are also part of the very fabric of life, are celebrated and remembered. Yet, since women are a profoundly essential part of the very fabric of life, from whose loins all humans are born, without whom no human would exist, is not life itself the very celebration of women and testament to their innate potency?
Over a century since the first Women’s Day was declared, our world, sadly, does not yet see women with the respect and dignity deserved. It may be tempting to see International Women’s Day as redundant. We may feel that the causes that triggered the first Women’s Day events have been won. These sobering statistics may help you see how far we yet have to go:
- Globally, about one in three women will be beaten, raped or otherwise abused during her lifetime.
- 30% of women who have been in relationship report that they have experienced physical or sexual violence by their partner.
- Worldwide, 38% of all murders of women are committed by a woman’s intimate partner.
Female Genital Mutilation
- Over 130 million women living today have undergone female genital mutilation. This is where girls have either all or part of their clitoris and inner and outer labia sliced off without anaesthesia, and part of their vaginas sewn shut.
- Approximately 14 million under-age girls, some as young as eight years old, were married in 2014.
- In 10 countries around the world, women, treated as property, are legally bound to obey their husbands.
- Only 76 countries have legislation that specifically addresses domestic violence, and only 57 of them include sexual abuse.
- An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked into slavery, including sexual slavery, each year; 80% are girls.
- Among full-time, year-round workers, women are typically paid 78% of what men are paid.
- The pay gap is worse for women of color.
- When you account for all factors known to affect pay, women are still paid almost 7% less than men just one year after college — and the gap only grows from there.
- At the 2003-13 rate, the pay gap won’t close for another 124 years.
- Over 90% of women said that they had been sexually harassed at the workplace.
These statistics apply to women everywhere – those within your community, your sisters, mother, friends. We have come a long way in a short period of time towards equality between men and women in societies around the world. But there still remains a lot of work to be done in our minds and hearts so we can see each other as true equals – different, yes, but equally important in the roles we play.
The problem is not “out there”, but within. As women, we must trust our true inner beauty and not buy into externally controlled ideas of beauty. We must trust our innate inner wisdom and not doubt the ways we operate, which are different for men.
Our differences give us strength. Women add value to society. Together, we create a whole picture, one that is both yin and yang. Women’s rights are not about women becoming men, but about being treated with the same dignity, justice and respect.
We must learn to trust our own womanhood, appreciating the changing moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, and know that we are part of a much greater whole. We are the planet. We are her children, stewards to care for the earth and all beings on it. If we treat all beings equally, this sets the example as to how we wish to be treated.
Nature is not in a hurry, but evolves over time. So too we must align to this natural rhythm we know so well in our bodies. We must not despair or fall into feeling against what is. This will pull us down. We must stay focused on who we are, take one day at a time and be with what is so that this singular moment may flower into an exquisite now.
When the flower simply flowers, it springs through the cracks in any oppressive concrete. When we allow our ground to come into full bloom, no weight can tie us down. Together we expand in our true beauty. We transform the world with the roar of a lion and the tender touch of a flower petal as only women know.