The United Nations (UN) first began celebrating International Women's Day (IWD) on 8 March during International Women's Year 1975. Numerous publications were released on the event ever since. Gender inequality is not only a human rights imperative and a pressing social issue; it also imposes constraints on global economic development. According to the new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, The power of parity, women account for half of the world’s working-age population and advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth by 2025.
While MGI report looks at the impact of women’s equality in economic terms, the UN released 17 Sustainable Development Goals, all of which have focus on progress for women. One of the goals is dedicated to achieving gender equality and full empowerment for all women. Following the 2030 Agenda, more than 90 governments have joined UN Women’s initiative to “Step It Up for Gender Equality”. They agreed to put measurable actions in place to address fundamental barriers to the achievement of gender equality in their countries.
Both sectors have agreed that the main barrier to achieving parity between men and women is the lack of an enabling environment. EBRD states that to achieve gender equality, formal and informal institutions, laws and policies need to allow women to access and control opportunities and assets on the same footing as men.
“One of the barriers that I think is a big elephant in the room is prejudice against women and stereotypes that are there in every society, whether in the most developed country or in a less developed country” - states Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women’s Executive Director, who has long made women and girls a priority in her public-service career, which includes being deputy president of South Africa and coordinator of the World YWCA.
Over the last few decades, the progress in gender equality has been very uneven. Ending discrimination and violence against women and girls and ensuring equal participation and opportunities in all spheres of life are amongst key priorities.
“It could take 50 years before gender parity is reached in politics. We must do our part to break the glass-ceilings and open the doors of opportunity for all women. I am honoured and proud to add my voice and full support of this vital cause.” – stated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Celebration of the International Women’s Day recognises the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is a call to action to speed up gender parity by employing more women across all sectors, calling for gender-balanced leadership, providing access to education and inspiring women across the world to pursue higher education.