Bridgend, South Wales, UK – As a young and upcoming journalist, International Women’s Day is important to me because it highlights the stories that we should be reporting, and sheds light on issues that impact women globally.
To mark the occasion, I attended the 2021 United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day.
The two-hour long event featured high-level dignitaries from the UN and other gender equality advocates offering reflections on the day’s theme, ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.’
The March 8 event started with UN Secretary General H.E. António Guterres, who said, “Too often services are delivered by women, but decisions are made by men.”
This is the first of three main lessons that I learned from the event. If we want equality for women, then we need to ensure that women are being appointed in positions of leadership. We need to give women a voice, and a chance to be heard when it really matters.
For example, 119 countries have never had a woman leader. But throughout the covid-19 pandemic, the countries that do have women leaders have suffered fewer deaths and put themselves on track for recovery.
Surely this proves that women are competent leaders, and adds to the reasons why we should advocate for more women in leadership positions?
Another lesson was about how important it is for an organization, or a space, to have both masculine and feminine energy.
Xiye Bastida, a climate justice activist and co-founder of the Re-Earth initiative, spoke about how movements flourish when we have two perspectives.
I found this really interesting, and perhaps it isn’t a conversation that we have enough.
Women are too often silenced because of the out-dated narrative that their opinion aren’t as influential or insightful as those of men. But how can we achieve gender equality if the organizations fighting for gender equality don’t have both perspectives?
This isn’t just a discussion about how important it is for women to be heard, it’s also a discussion about how important it is for men to take an active role in advocating for gender equality.
If women are the only people advocating for gender equality, then we won’t reach a gender equal society.
It should be a collective effort, and a collaborative movement.
The last main lesson I took sesy from the UN’s observance of International Women’s Day was that the covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and girls worldwide. It’s important for us all to take an active role in helping rebuild societies following the pandemic.
H.E. Mher Margaryan, chair of the 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, spoke about how the pandemic has “exaggerated the suffering of women and girls in situations of conflicts, humanitarian crisis and other fragile contexts.”
He gave examples such as maternal mortality, gender-based violence and the burdens of unpaid-care.
His words were an important reminder of how brutal the pandemic has been for women and girls worldwide, and his speech – as well as the event as a whole – left me feeling inspired and motivated to join in the fight for gender equality.
This International Women’s Day I recognized the challenges and struggles that we face when advocating for a gender equal world. I understand better the work that needs to be done and I know what I can do personally to help.
The International Women’s Day motto is “choose to challenge,” and therefore, I challenge everyone reading this to educate themselves and play their part in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality.
International Women’s Day is a recognized and renowned celebration of how far we’ve come with regards to gender equality, but also serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go.
Holly Hostettler-Davies is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.