International Women’s Day is here and while many of us believe we have attained “equality” in all ways possible, we are here to burst your bubble and renegotiate the terms of justice. ‘DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality’ is the theme for International Women’s Day 2023, while the colour for this year’s celebration is purple! So, we’re going to go purple all the way to tell you why it is important for us to be aware of gender disparities and what we must do to bring about the necessary changes.
Here are 5 injustices we must address this Women’s Day to actually celebrate women and equality!
1. There is still gender disparity in education!
We are all aware of how quality and equality in girls’ education benefits us all as a society, yet more than a hundred million girls never set foot inside a classroom. Children of mothers who have had at least primary school education are more likely to have better access to education and healthcare. There are many reasons as to why we lack equality in education, some of them being menstruation, child marriage and gendered violence in classrooms. The average female literacy rate throughout the world is 79.9%. The literacy rate for men, on the other hand, is 89.2%. India is way behind at 62.3% for women as compared to 80% for men.
Many young girls drop out of school once they start menstruating because they apparently become women overnight who must get married and learn how to work in the house. Maybe if we focused more on teaching women how to run a house instead of only working in one, we’d be more developed as a society.
2. The gender pay gap still exists, we know, surprising, isn’t it?
Empowering women financially is the first key step to equality. However, a 2020 World Economic Forum report suggests that we might need about 100 years until women are paid equally if we do exactly what we are doing. This differs from country to country but isn’t it surprising that women who are constantly working, day-in and day-out, don’t get paid enough, let alone be paid fairly. Women partake in both industrial and domestic labour, however for every 243 rupees that a man earns, a woman in India earns only 196 rupees.
3. Women in agriculture in India still remain underpaid or unpaid
There are as many women farmers, if not more, as men. However, women farmers tend to have less productive fields due to less access to critical tools and resources. About 75% of the full-time Indian farm workers are women, according to OXFAM. Female farmers produce 60% to 80% of the South Asian country’s food. However, there are not enough fertilisers, seeds, training and farm labour, and even when there is, they do not get equal income to any of their male counterparts. Women in the rural areas also are the primary caretakers of the children, which in turn means they have less time to dedicate to their fields, and they struggle to get their goods to the market. They get barely anything from their harvest, and they tend to put this money back into their family and the field, which leaves no space for economic growth at all.
4. Indian women still struggle to access healthcare
Given that women have less economic opportunities, they tend to have less access to quality healthcare which in turn leads to more poverty. Gender inequality leads to rise in female mortality; in simpler terms about 1000 women die every day due to the dearth of proper health care during pregnancy and childbirth. Losing a mother to such a preventable cause can cause negative impacts on the children, who become less likely to access healthcare and often drop out of school to take care of their house or younger siblings. The female healthcare system is so broken that to this day, we still debate about abortion rights and marital rape. Women not only do not have proper access to physical healthcare, but their mental health is almost always discarded. In 2021 alone, more women suffered from mental health disorders in India, amounting to 39% for stress and 30% for anxiety health disorder. In the same year, 33% of men had depression as compared to 31% of women.
5. If marriage isn’t child’s play, then why are child brides still a thing?
According to UNICEF about 800 million women were married before they turned 18, and about one-third of this drastic number were married even before the age of 15. While young boys also get married before the minimum age, the ratio of boys to girls who lose their childhood to an institution like that of marriage is 1:4. These young girls get married off without quality education, which increases their chances of ending up in poverty, violent households and increased maternal mortality rates. This also increases sexual violence against women, female genital mutilation, human trafficking and honour killings, which contributes to making women a constant target of gendered hate crimes.