We‘ve come a long way already, that’s for sure. It’s been 100 years since women fought for and achieved the goal of being able to vote in the UK, that is if you were over 30 and owned property. Many called 2017 ‘the Year of the Woman’ with women’s marches taking the world by storm as millions of women protested and demanded that women’s rights, for all those that identify as women, were protected.
However, with this progress and space for women to publically share their #metoo experiences and #everydaysexism I’m continually aware of how much further we have to go.
Many of the suffrage voices we commonly hear about are middle class, white women and much of the progress that has currently been made has been for women in relative privilege. In particular we find ourselves talking about the gender pay gap and parental leave whilst for many women around the world these conversations may seem like a distant dream.
The privilege of being able to take time out to march, of taking time to raise your voice, is still not a possibility for the many millions of women and girls who are living around the world, particularly those living in extreme poverty in vulnerable communities. For those women, the fight is currently and often simply, access to education, a desire to earn an income that will support themselves and their family and access to the most basic of health care. Sexual health education for these women and the right to choose their partners, let alone their husbands is also an important part of the conversation. There are a great number of phenomenal organisations dedicating their time and resources to women’s empowerment programmes, for me it’s important this International Women’s Day to remember that although many of us may feel that we have pressed the button for progress already and are storming ahead, that we do not forget the many millions of women around the world who are also pressing forward and pushing for the exact same rights.
This International Women’s Day I implore you to cast your eyes, hearts and minds further afield.
In the context of my work at JDC and OLAM, I have been exposed to numerous Jewish individuals and organisations addressing the needs of vulnerable women worldwide;
WJR is known for its historic work with the kindertransport but did you know about their women’s empowerment programme in Moldova, aimed particularly at single mothers, proving childcare so women can get IT training and ensure they know their rights for health and welfare provision?
You likely know much about Tzedek’s work in Northern Ghana but did you know about their women’s empowerment projects training women in tailoring or computer training and nursing in India?
Have you heard of Sundara a soap recycling project empowering women in India and Myanmar by training them in how to recycle soap and teaching hygiene education within their communities?
Or Naya is a paper recycling project based in the Kalwa slums outside of Mumbai and has trained women in paper recycling, tackling the issue of rubbish in the slums, providing a creative outlet and space for innovative thinking for women as well as an income.