Time is now! | Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 08, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:13 AM, March 08, 2018

Time is now!

Int'l Women's Day today; goal is to transform women's lives

International Women's Day first emerged from women's labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. Since then, International Women's Day has assumed a global dimension for national and international women's movement, strengthened by Four Global United Nations women's conferences strengthening call for  women's rights and participation in  political, social  and economic arenas. The UN Beijing Conference in 1995 was a milestone with  the Platform for Action  signed by 189 governments   envisioning a world free of gender discrimination and violence.  The theme for 2018 International Women's Day (IWD),  is “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women's Lives”.

When we speak of women's rights and  gender equality,  it is important to note that there are huge differences  in their  experience of  rights and  discrimination. Women are  divided by class, ethnicity, religion and profession.  While  educated women in the higher income group   have  attained a level of equality and bargaining power, women from low income groups,   minority  and  non literate rural  women  are by and large disempowered and their  decision making ability  severely limited  due to poverty,  social, cultural norms and practices. It is critical that we focus on these women and make sure that they get  a  fair share of   benefits  from the economic, political and social development that Bangladesh  has achieved in the last 20 years.

In spite of tremendous gains, women face  persistent  violence and discrimination at home, in work and public places.  A special mention needs to be made about women who face additional challenges  due to  ethnicity,  physical  condition or profession. They are  subject to increased violence and discrimination and   often  denied protection and access to justice.  In the same way, women's unpaid productive work such as agriculture, is not recognised or valued. Non recognition of  women's unpaid work has led to the de valuation of a huge work force impacting negatively, not only on the economy but also on   indicators such as health, education and  harmony in family and society.  Highlighting women's contribution can raise their  status which is  one of the ways to reduce violence and discrimination against them. 

Finally, building a world free from violence and discrimination and ensuring gender equality does not only benefit women but  men too.   It promotes peace and   harmony and elevates both men and women to a higher level of co-existing as equal partners, contributing positively to the welfare of the family and society. Time has come to finally do  away with  systems  of  patriarchy that  for ages has determined the way women should  lead their lives. The time is certainly NOW, to  transform lives and make the    Global and National  call for  PLANET  50 50  BY  2030 a reality for all women.

The writer is the Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation, and a leading women's rights activist.

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