Today marks International Women's Day, an opportunity to celebrate all of the fantastic and courageous achievements of women around the world, and recognise the length we still need to go in terms of equal rights.
Feminism is often seen as a taboo word, which comes to me as a surprise. In theory it is one of the simplest of concepts; that men and women should be equal in all aspects of life and rights. I believe it is crucial to be a feminist. It is a priority of mine to work to close the gender pay gap, and to push policies that enable women to feel empowered and free.
Similarly to the confusion with the term feminism, some are additionally concerned as to why in this modern day and age we even need an International Women’s Day, and there are many who suggest we should also have a men's day (- we do it's November 19th.) They argue passionately that this day is outdated and no longer needed. They contest that women now work, vote, and operate as equal members of society.
The data will tell you that this is not the case, that around the world women are still subject to unequal pay, unequal working rights. After all, some countries have only very recently granted women the right to vote. I fear the people with these ideas of not celebrating IWD are not looking deep enough, seeing only the women around them. They seem to believe that because there has been vast improvement over the past 100 years, that the journey is complete. The statistics are real. The gender pay gap means that in essence, women worked for free from Nov 10th until the end of the year and The World Health Organisation states that 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.These are just two of many examples.
The statistic that really resonates with me, is the lack of women who are globally in a position of political power. The UN reports that only 22% of parliamentarians worldwide are female. I am aware that by being a man in politics is in a way intrinsically linked to this figure, and that it could be seen as hypocritical to work for policies on women's rights as a man. "We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back" are words that were spoken by Malala Yousafzai, The Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban to defend her right to an education. I believe that this is why it is imperative that I, and other men are feminists, to use our positions to put more women in power, and actively be part of the fight to equality.
I want to continue to do my part in building not just a UK, but a world that is gender inclusive with complete equal rights. Today we must commemorate all women. The women who have provoked change, the women who continue to fight, and all the women in our lives who inequality affects.