Although 8th March is officially International Women’s Day, in China (at least at universities, or rather at least in my university), there is Girls’ Day, the day before. I asked a student why this was and they told me that the idea of women implies a married woman, whereas Girls’ Day does not have that implication. Mostly, it seemed to be the guys buying cake for the girls. Still, it’s nice to have that recognition.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, when (some) women in Britain obtained the vote. It was another ten years before women got the vote on an equal footing to men. Yet, even today, with campaigns like #MeToo and #EverydaySexism, we are reminded just how much work there is still to do in terms of gender equality.
IWD is a day to celebrate the achievements of women all over the world, but also to highlight – and remember – the challenges women still face. I’ve discussed my former high school students before, and how several, in their own ways, are pushing boundaries and breaking glass ceilings. But, with the theme of this year’s IWD as #PressforProgress (pressing ahead with equality), it is a reminder that we can all and should all do our own bit for equal rights. In 2017, the World Economic Forum estimated it would take over 200 years for worldwide economic equality between men and women. Over 200 years. That just shows how important education and days like IWD are, because they remind us that things are not okay, and that we should really be pushing – or pressing – for more. I will be trying to do more over the next year to highlight the issue with my students.
It always feels a little odd saying ‘Happy International Women’s Day’, because although I’m very happy to be celebrating the lives of wonderful women – living and dead – and reminding people of their actions and deeds, it is equally depressing knowing that there is still a long way to go. Still, I #PressforProgress and to all my female friends, students, colleagues and family members, and to all the fantastic, amazing women in the world, Happy International Women’s Day, and thank you! ♀️