#MovingMountains on International Women's Day, and every day

Natalia Domagala | Mar 08, 2017
Women Moving Mountains
This International Women’s Day, we are celebrating the women’s movements changing the world for women. 

Throughout history, women’s movements have shown us that they have the power to change the world. Now, with women bearing the brunt of a world in turmoil, we need them more than ever. 

There is a global backlash against women. Violence against women remains a reality for one in three of us. The work we do to care for our families holds up the global economy, yet it is not valued or recognised as work. Our voices are ignored in the halls of decision-making. We have less and less control over our own bodies, including when or whether to have children. And when women speak up, they are taking a risk.

Despite the risks, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, women’s rights organisations and movements are campaigning for change in women’s lives – for an end to violence against women, for recognition of the unpaid care women provide, for an equal say in decisions, for rights to land and decent work, and for control over our own bodies. They are working together, in broad alliances, building movements of women and their allies who have a vision of a better world, and are taking action to get there.

Where it all began

International Women’s Day was born out of the struggle of women’s workers to demand their economic and political rights. In 1908, 15,000 women garment workers from The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union marched through the streets of Lower East Side in New York City to protest against their working conditions.They demanded shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

Today, 109 years after those garment workers took the streets of New York, women around the world are still working longer hours for less pay and experience economic violence on an everyday basis. This International Women’s Day, we want to raise awareness of the significance of Women’s Economic Rights and support the movements striving for change.

Women are undervalued and underpaid

Women’s work continues to be undervalued and underpaid. Gender roles in society assign women to domestic work and care for others. Globally, women spend at least 2.5 times more time than men on unpaid care and domestic work. As a result, they have less time to engage in education, work for pay and generally rest and leisure.

Even though it underpins any other work, unpaid work done in the household by women is not counted as part of measures of economic activity such us GDP. Without cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, collecting water, and caring about the children and elderly, no other economic activity could be performed. The need for flexibility around time and the existing stereotypes casting women as carers and men as breadwinners result in women working part time or in precarious roles, often being paid less than men. The inequalities worsen for women marginalised because of their race, class, migrant status, sexual orientation, disabilities, HIV status and other factors. 

When they finally break into the labour market, women face gender-based violence and sexual harassment as a part of their everyday experience when trying to make a living. 60% of female garment workers in India and Bangladesh have experienced sexual harassment in their workplace. Due to unequal power relations in the household, women might not be able to control the money they earn. Moreover, rigid gender roles can trigger backlash from families and communities of women taking up new roles as workers or business owners. 

Standing up for our rights, together

In order to improve women’s economic situation, we need to stand up for our rights together. We know that organised, funded and mobilised women’s movements are making the difference.  The evidence is strong  – over three decades and in 70 countries, researchers studied what made the most impact on reducing violence against women – and it wasn’t the numbers of women in parliament, or the wealth of a nation, it was the existence of well-funded, well-organised independent national women’s movements, holding those with the power to make and implement laws to account.

Womankind stands in solidarity with global women’s movements, on International Women’s Day and every day. We invite you to join us as we celebrate the women #MovingMountains. 

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