DUBLIN, 05 March (IPS) – International Women’s Day is always an occasion to celebrate strong women and an important day on the global calendar to highlight gender injustices that still linger in every part of the world.
In 2021, our celebrations will be full of bitterness as we reflect on the sacrifices and hardships women have endured amid the pandemic, but I hope they also push us forward to ensure women and girls shape a more equal future as the world recovers from COVID-19.
The past 12 months have seen the emergence of new barriers to gender equality linked to the pandemic, in addition to pre-existing social and systemic discrimination. Around the world, women face an increase in domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment and poverty.
Women are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis and the jobs that have proven essential during the pandemic – from health and social care to low-paying services – are mostly held by women.
While most countries of the world have imposed significant restrictions on movement and emergency powers that affect daily life, authoritarian regimes in particular have exploited the public health crisis as an excuse to continue and even escalate patterns of repression and political oppression, with women in the line of fire. .
One of these is Zimbabwe, where the emergency powers imposed by the pandemic have been used to suppress legitimate political rallies and protests. In 2019, I visited Zimbabwe with my colleague Elder Graça Machel, where we met extraordinary women from all parts of society who described their pain and struggles, but also their hope for a better society. On this International Women’s Day, I affirm my solidarity with their struggle for rights and justice, and I commend their determination to build a better future for their children.
Around the world, I have been inspired by female activists and young leaders who describe themselves as “multiple environmentalists”, who work across traditional silos to advance women’s rights and climate justice. I share their view that these goals are inseparable from broader struggles to end other forms of discrimination, exclusion and injustice, including racism, sectarianism and gender bias.
The pandemic has already shone an indifferent light on global inequalities and exposed the intersection between gender, poverty and age.
I often remember the passionate speech in 2019 by American climate activist Jimmy Margolin. Jamie was only 17 years old when she testified on Capitol Hill about the climate crisis and climate injustice. She made headlines by boycotting her when she felt her voice was not being heard with the urgency and seriousness of the situation. Her anger was justified, and it lay in the context of decades if not centuries of frustration with women being told to remain silent when men speak.
The voices of women must be heard in discussions about the global recovery from COVID-19. When women and youth come together, they can renew their country. It is vital that they be present in a meaningful way and get a seat at the table at the COP26 climate summit later this year.
It is our responsibility as global leaders to include the voices of women, youth, and marginalized groups and countries. If pandemic teaches us anything, it is that we are inextricably connected.
We have seen how women-led countries have often performed better in the face of a pandemic and demonstrated their skills and ability to effectively guide their countries in times of crisis. However, women are (elected) heads of state and government in only 20 countries around the world.
We must follow in the footsteps of Sana Marin of Finland, Jacinda Arden of New Zealand, and German Angela Markle and show influential feminist leadership, starting at COP26 and throughout the next decade, in order to fully realize the promise of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
I am also pleased that the WTO has just elected Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its new Director-General – the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO in its history. I know she will be a powerful voice for equality, justice and inclusion in upcoming critical debates.
Despite the myriad of intertwined grievances that have been building for centuries, I see many reasons to stay optimistic.
Gender inequality is not a stand-alone issue and International Women’s Day inspires me to fight for a post-pandemic world free of all injustices, instead of returning to our old ways before COVID-19 hit.
While many of us are still unable to see our children and grandchildren amid the virus, I urge you to envision and act aggressively for a secure future for themselves as well as for those who will come after.
I know that I stand side by side with legions of women fighting for justice, be it physical or virtual, and that we are all alert and ready to build a safe and just future for all of us.
Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland, and President of The Elders
© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service