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International Women’s Day: The fight for women’s rights

“The Story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” – Gloria Steinem

Today, Sunday 8th March, is International Women’s Day (IWD), launched over a century ago to celebrate women’s achievements and to oppose the injustices and inequalities women face around the world. IWD is a reminder that whilst we are moving forward, changing attitudes and recognising women’s rights and achievements, we still have a lot more work to do to ensure women are treated as equals.

The following statistics highlight just some of the inequalities women are still confronted with around the world:

• A 2014 report by UNICEF showed that 11 per cent of girls around the world are married before they turn the age of 15. In 2015, around 15 million girls, as young as 8 years old, will be forced in to marriage.

• Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women remain banned from driving. Saudi women also need consent from a male relative to work, study and travel.

• There were almost 500 new cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK in November 2014. Over 130 million women worldwide have had the non-medical procedure, which involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia.

• Of the 1.2 million children trafficked into slavery every year, 80 per cent of these are girls.

• Around 1 in 3 women around the world will be physically or sexually abused during their lifetime.

• The UK’s only honour based violence and forced marriage charity, Karma Nirvana, received a record number of calls in March 2014.

• A BBC documentary, banned in India, shows the rapist of a 23 year old woman who was gang raped and killed on a Delhi bus in 2012, blame the victim claiming that “a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy”.

• According to a 2013 UN report, 99.3 per cent of women and girls in Egypt have been sexually harassed.

• A 2013 UNESCO report showed that millions of girls around the world are denied an education. In Pakistan, over 3 million girls were not in primary school. In total, 31 million girls of primary school age were not in school.

• The same UNESCO report confirmed that of the 774 million illiterate people in the world, two thirds are women.

As feminism takes its place in popular culture and is debated endlessly as to why we do or don’t need it in the 21st century, we cannot ignore its significance in today’s world. Feminism is a movement that advocates the rights and equalities of women. But whether you’re a feminist or not, a woman’s right is a human right and a fight that doesn’t exclude anyone.

If IWD does anything, it acts as a stark reminder that we need to keep fighting for women’s rights and equalities. We need to keep fighting for women who are voiceless and powerless. We must encourage and support women in the fight to be considered as equals. IWD should be celebrated and acknowledged so that every girl and woman can have the same opportunities and the same rights as every boy and man.

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