International Women’s Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women thus far while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action. It is about recognising how women’s equality has made positive gains but that at the same time we need to be informed about what still needs to be done. The theme for this year is Inspiring Change for the International Women’s Day global hub. It encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. Its a call to challenge the status quo for women’s equality and for vigilance in inspiring positive change. An essential part of achieving this, and keeping on the fight for positive changes in women’s rights, is to be informed. Informed of the circumstances and challenges that women across the world are still facing today.
We have indeed come far over the past 200 years, with all sorts of new rights and freedoms for women equal to those held by men. The United Nations efforts have played a critical role in advocating the voice of women since the early 20thC. However, today there are millions of women still facing discrimination and suffering all kinds of exploitation and human rights abuses. Reports show that currently, despite being illegal in every country, slavery is a transnational trade estimated to be exploiting 27 million people worldwide. Approximately 80% of its transnational victims are female, and 70% of them are trafficked into the commercial sex industry. This brings us to a potential 15million women, right now being exploited sexually. (U.S. Department of Justice, Assessment of U.S Government Activities to Combat Trafficking, Persons:2009).
To people living in affluent societies such as our own, who enjoy an abundance of rights and freedoms, these sorts of injustices can seem very far away from our own realities. Shockingly, this human rights violation can be seen throughout the entire world (wealthy and poorer nations alike). In particular parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. In a report by the UNODC in November 2009, stories of girls being trafficked from Nepal and into India tell of immense physical and mental suffering for the girls who are victims to the trade. But it also reveals the strength of women who have survived. Those who are now supporting other women who have escaped and working towards preventing further injustice.
One young woman told of how at 11 she was taken from her home in Nepal and sold into a brothel in Mumbai where she worked for 15 years. An Indian Government raid on the brothels of Mumbai in the late 90s was her salvation, rescuing some 800-900 women (600 of which were Nepalis). NGOs helped return 128 of these Nepali women to Nepal but they were led to seek refuge with a shelter for trafficked women in Kathmandu, for fear of being abandoned by their family.
This young girl now reaches out to young girls across Nepal helping to raise awareness about sexual exploitation of women. She is involved in providing counselling and training, food and shelter to other women hopefully to see them reintegrate back into society!
For more on her story see: http://www.unodc.org/southasia//frontpage/2009/November/trafficked-women-make-a-difference.html)
Today we celebrate the progress of women globally, from the achievements of those who have gone before us in the social and political world, and even the triumphs in our own lives. While we do however, let us not form a false belief that the fight is over. We must continue to keep ourselves informed, challenging the status quo for women’s equality so as to inspire positive change.
There are still millions of women who need to be given their voice, women who we can raise our own voices for.