Before we start celebrating, praising and glorifying women next Monday, March 8 (which then will abruptly stop around March 9), let's be reminded of a few simple facts true every other day of the year.
1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced some (or all) types of violence — physical, sexual or psychological, and this happens in public places, at home and online. This means that if not you than one of other two women close to you has been sexually harassed by her boss or colleague, brused by her intimate partner, sexually assaulted by a stranger, catcalled in the street, verbally attacked on social media…
This is not some Law&Order: SVU episode, it is true for most of us. When I was 7, a man in the street grabbed me from behind, put his hand over my mouth and took me away from my friends and if they did not start screaming making him run and dropping me on the ground I don't know what would happen.
Then growing up and being a teenager a lot of harassment becomes normalized by the closest people because you are becoming a woman and everyone has the right to make comments about your body. This actually never stops.
And then comes work. On the interview for my first job, I was asked if I am planning to have children any time soon, and this question was repeated a couple more times in other job related situations. And I always failed to understand how my womb has anything to do with my work abilities and performance.
I´ve never faced the situation but I know many women who have been fired or demoted after having babies because someone thought that raising kids makes you less capable to do other things.
Once, when I was working at the UN and was having a break with another female colleague a man approached us and asked if he can take picture of us to show to his friends. There is no warm water in the world that can wash away that feeling, trust me.
It is also important to remember that women still very often hit glass ceilings and walls in their professional life when career progression and career options are not available due to their gender.
Though, there is a positive story to be told when it comes to women’s place in higher education. The percentage of young girls graduating from universities reached 56.6% (and its been high and steady for decades), compared to only 44.1% for young men. Also, for example, in the US women hold almost 52% of all professional-level jobs. Yet, there is only 8% of them managed to get at the top of the companies that make up the Fortune 500 list. Do the math!
Don't forget that women CEOs and many other professions still get paid a fraction of what their male counterparts earn.
So when on 8 of March you get the urge to celebrate women make sure you first understand their basic (human) rights:
The right to education, the right for equal pay for equal work, freedom of movements, the right to work, the right to be a stay at home mom, the right to not be a mom at all, the right to wear any clothes without being afraid for her safety, the right to not be held down in her career just because of her gender, the right to her own body, right for safety, right to be a tomboy or a diva, the right to make her own decisions and become who she aspires to be (whether that fits your criteria or not).
Apart from a few bad memories, I was so lucky to grow in a family of mostly boys who respected not only me but every woman in their life, lucky to be educated by my father who always encouraged me to study science (being equally happy when I chose that science to be psychology), blessed with my life partner who has always called me brave rather than anything else, grateful to be surrounded by amazing and inspiring women every moment of my life.
“i want to apologize to all the women i have called beautiful
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is all you have to be proud of
when you have broken mountains with your wit
from now on i will say things like
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re beautiful
but because i need you to know
you are more than that”
― Rupi Kaur