This article originally appeared on iirrblog.com.
On March 4th, I attended the opening ceremony of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). CSW is part of the UN Economic and Social Council, and it is dedicated exclusively to the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of women. Each year, representatives of Member States gather at UN Headquarters to evaluate on gender equality, identify global challenges, set global standards, and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.
This year's main focus is eliminating and preventing violence against women and girls and it comes on the heels of the reauthorization of an expanded Violence Against Women Act here in the United States. During the initial remarks, I couldn't help but wonder why we are still continuing to talk about women-specific issues. The commission, now in its 57th session (aka years), is seemingly a bunch of talking heads reading their recommendations about elevating the status of women around the world year after year.
But, despite the fact that large commissions with thousands of participants don't seem to accomplish a lot each year, they do perhaps what's most important in the fight for women's equality: keep the conversation going. As much as I want these conversations to end, for people to stop bickering over whether women's rights are human rights (they are), the fact of the matter is, is that we still have a long way to go.
Each year, 7 of 10 women will experience physical or sexual violence. Every day, 200 million work hours are consumed by women collecting water for their families, and that means less time earning a living, caring for their livestock, getting an education, or caring for their families. 1 in 4 women can't read and 53% of students that are out of schools are girls (source).
It's statistics like those that are the reason for the continued conversation. It may seem like not much progress is made each year, but because the global community continues to keep women's issues as part of a greater conversation, more and more women are beginning to prosper. An increase in women and girls who are educated means more children will be vaccinated against disease, more money will be invested back into the community, and more children will avoid HIV/AIDS. And when women are allowed great access to education, participation in business and politics, and have a say in what happens to their bodies, their families, communities, and nations prosper.
This International Women's Day, do your part to keep the conversation going. Volunteer with organizations that have a focus on women and girls. Become a leader in your community and advocate for increased rights for women in your local community and around the world. You can also donate to us to help us support women and girls around the world.
The most important thing, however, is to not let this conversation end until all women are treated with the dignity and respect that all humans deserve. Speak up, take a stand for equality for all, and let's see the end of discrimination.