Be bold for change on International Women’s Day

Jessica by Jessica
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Today is International Women's Day and I want to take a moment to talk about gender equality and women's rights around the world. International Women's Day (IWD) is a day where we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide. But it is also a day to campaign for gender parity across the world, as women face a lot of prejudice every day and it's rather shocking that in 2017 we still don't have true gender equality.

There are still countries in the world where young girls aren't allowed to go to school and learn. Every child, every human should have the right to be able to have an education no matter their gender. We should look at children equally and give them the same rights.

In some places women are expected to marry very young and obey their husbands every word no matter what. How is that still happening in 2017? How are women still being forced into marriage and being told they have no other option and that is all they are good for? Everyone should have the right to choose who they love and if they want to get married not be forced into it. A marriage should be equal, every decision should be made together not the husband telling the wife what she must do.

But we should remember that there are still imbalances here in Britain. It's well known that there is gender inequality in the workplace and we still don't have equal pay in a lot of industries. Certain sectors like engineering are very male oriented and women are not expected to be interested in these sorts of roles - the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe!

Sport is another arena where the pay gap between men and women is huge, and also shows a lot about our underlying attitudes towards women. Back in school before I became a wheelchair user, myself and the other girls weren't allowed to play proper rugby in PE, we had to play touch rugby instead.  When I confronted my teacher and questioned this, I was told it was because girls are more ‘fragile’ whereas boys are ‘tougher’. In every sport no matter the gender people get injured all the time. It's just a part of the sporting world and we she shouldn't discourage girls from playing a sport just because they may get hurt.

Since becoming a wheelchair user I have seen these patronising attitudes taken to a whole new level. For example a few months ago I went for a night out with one of my friends who is also a wheelchair user. As we were making our way through the entrance of a club a group of older men all stopped to look at us and say “Awww”. One of them even went so far to pat me on the head and say “Aww bless you!”. These are the kinds of reactions that disabled people encounter all too often regardless of gender, but I do think part of the reason this man felt like he could invade my personal space like this is because I’m a woman.

It is clear there is still a lot that needs to be improved so it’s fitting that this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange. Let’s spread awareness of the issues raised and celebrate the positive changes that are happening worldwide for women. 

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