Today is International Women’s Day (IWD) and knowing I was going to write a short blog on IWD, I’ve reflected on my own thoughts relating to women’s rights and empowerment. Campaign’s such as ‘Me Too’ and ‘Times Up’ have highlighted women’s issues such as sexual harassment and equality issues however women’s rights haven’t always been so widely highlighted in the media. I was born in 1961 and it was a time when western societies were on the cusp of significant social change. The year of my birth coincided with the introduction of the birth control pill. The Pill had a huge impact on modern society, it introduced opportunities for women, and for the first time womenwere in control of their own contraception, independent of their spouse/partner. This had the effect of opening up women’s work choices, earning potential and further education options. I was blissfully unaware of the opportunities which were being created for me, as I progressed through my childhood in the swinging sixties. Now nearly sixty years on there are approximately 15 million women in the UK workplace yet shamefully less than 10% of the female workforce hold Senior Executive Positions. Progress has ‘been made but it’s been slow in coming and I’m not sure we’ve actually managed to break through that glass ceiling yet.
It’s taken until the twentieth century for the UK to appoint its first female Prime Minister and considering we’ve been boasting that we’d been a democracy since the thirteen century, women’s political progress, has been excruciatingly slow.
The same can be said about the Family Law Courts, a topic close to my heart. Stephen Jenkins, a professor at the London School of Economics found in his research that women who worked before, during or after their divorce, see on average a 20% decline in income whereas their ex-husband is likely to see their incomes rise by more than 30%. This statistic came as no surprise to me however I hope by writing my book ‘And Then The Penny Dropped,’ I have lent a voice to the many women who, like myself find themselves in the divorce courts and are left economically disadvantaged.
Despite the apparent discrepancies which still exist, in the UK, today, women appear to be making slow strong strides forward. We are eventually finding our voice and making ourselves heard in western Europe, however the same cannot be said in other parts of the world. For example, in Saudi Arabia women were only given the right to vote in 2015 and were the last country to allow women to drive in 2018. Then we also find in some of the poorest countries in the world, women face exploitation due to long working hours, low wages, and lack of decent working conditions not to mention poor health care. Afghanistan and Somalia have some of the highest infant mortality rates due to the lack of appropriate medical facilities and some women are still subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). According to the World Health Organisation, this barbaric practice is carried out in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
I believe the key to improving conditions for women across the globe would seem to be found in increasing educational opportunities for all women. Females with little or no education are at risk of poverty, violence, child marriage and disease such as HIV. Fortunately, in the UK females have as much right to an education as males yet its not always the case in other countries around the world for example in South Sudan only a quarter of girls get an education and less than 20% of girls between 15 and 24 are literate.
I’d like to think wherever we are based in the world, we women are all part of one big sisterhood. We should endeavour to make positive changes, however small, to empower other women, and hopefully by doing this, it will have a rippling effect and create positive change for other women all over the world.
I am proud to be a woman, I’ve been surrounded by strong women all my life and to coin another one of my mother’s well used phrases ‘One strong women is worth five men.’
Who am I to disagree.