By Christiana Lang, Class XVI

It’s been quite a year for women in the world. We have raised the #metoo movement from a hashtag to a force. We have marched, yet again, for rights that are often agreed upon but still seldom given. We have won seats in government, testified in court, spoken out in interviews. We’ve started organizations, and built families. We have persisted.

Despite all of these “women wins”, something is missing, especially in the world of peace and conflict resolution. Eighteen years ago, the UN passed Resolution 1325 which declares “the importance of [women’s] equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security”. Despite that call for “equal participation”, women make up just 2.4 percent of chief mediators in peace negotiations, 4 percent of soldiers deployed to UN peacekeeping missions, and only 2 out of 160 countries have a gender equal parliament (CFR, UN Women).

Research has proven, ambassadors have spoken, even men have stepped up to acknowledge women’s rights through the HeforShe campaign. We have global programs, data sets, indexes, and statistics to prove and draw awareness to discrepancies women constantly face. The UN just released a report declaring that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) gender indicator still leaves “significant gaps to women’s empowerment”.

So, if research, ambassadors, programs, reports, and data don’t ensure equality, what will? How do we turn the slow trickle of progress to a wave of implementation, and dare I say- new status quo?

To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, put your action where your eyes are and try just one of the below suggestions.

  1. Join movements: Simply Google “gender equality” + your local area name to see what organizations exist near you.
  2. Get educated: Read stories about women’s struggles and successes, find statistics, seek to understand more about why gender equality matters.
  3. Amplify women: This article explains what that means, how it evolved, and how to do it.
  4. Empower youth: Young people are tapped into social movements and fresh ideas. Listen to them, involve them, work with them.
  5. Practice speaking out loud: If you know the statistics, if you know the issues, give voice to them. If you don’t say what you are thinking, it will not get said.
Screen Shot 2018-03-02 at 13.13.42
The 2018 theme for International Women’s Day: Rural and Urban Activists, Changing Women’s Lives (UN).

In 1909, the first International Women’s Day was founded in the United States to raise issue with women’s working rights in a garment factory. A few years after that, many countries followed suit in solidarity for women’s suffrage. We have come a long way for women’s rights, yet there is still work to be done. Small steps in our own communities are the key to solidifying big global goals.

Social change starts with society, and that means you. Even in Sweden, a country known for gender equality, there are still stands to take for women’s equality and empowerment. As Rotarians, we have the opportunity to lead and to exemplify action needed for change.

Let’s live up to the challenge.




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