#BeBoldForChange | International Women’s Day

What is it to be bold, as a woman?

If you consider the comments of any internet article about women, the mere fact of us writing this post is bold. It’s well documented that women who are outspoken in their feminism and their advocacy for equality are targeted for the worst sorts of threats. For many women, it’s bold to go to school, to take up arms and fight, to practice medicine, to practice religion freely.

Some people want to tell you that we don’t need change. That the problems women suffer don’t exist, or we’re being too emotional and sensitive

Some days, it feels bold just to exist as a woman, even in New Zealand. A Facebook friend likes a meme about hitting women or a joke about rape. You read the news, and another article covering a domestic violence court case sits next to another article about female reproductive legislation. You’re at work, where you can’t escape and the customer is always right, and men twice, three times your age take your forced smile as an invitation. It can be bold to wear a singlet and shorts on an oppressively hot day because that leaves you open to cat-calling. It’s bold to walk down the street in the dark, to go places alone. It’s definitely bold to take part in protest and activism like the recently held women’s marches against President Trump.

Some people want to tell you that we don’t need change. That the problems women suffer don’t exist, or we’re being too emotional and sensitive, or that our problems don’t matter because women in other countries have it worse. “New Zealand doesn’t have pay inequity” they cry, ignoring the quantitative evidence produced by the NZ Human Rights Commission. “What about International Men’s Day?” they whine, ignoring the fact that men are recognised and prioritised over women every day in jobs, in sports, in education. “I would love it if a girl complimented me on the street” they smirk, ignoring the intimidation implicit in cat-calling and the fact that it often turns into verbal abuse or worse.

These people are wrong. Change is necessary, and we need to be bold to make that change. Revolution is messy, but it’s how we’ve come as far as we have – the suffragettes were bold, and I for one am grateful every day that I have the right to vote and let my voice be heard. Everything I have is because of women who have been bold and affected change because of that, including within my own family.

We have to be bold to ask for change, to achieve change, and to withstand the tide of people who do not want change.

The change starts with us. It takes one person, group or country to be a catalyst towards change. #BeBoldForChange

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day, where the world comes together to celebrate women from the past, present and the future. This year’s theme is ‘Be Bold for Change’. The main purpose of this day is two-fold: to celebrate and appreciate the achievements and fights that women in our history have contributed in order to allow the women of today to have the lives that they do, and to encourage, raise awareness and further fight for the rights of women to reach the ultimate goal of gender equality.

Women have struggled and fought to have the same rights and opportunities at life as men. Complete equality is yet to happen on an international scale. However, us women have also come a long way since we began our fight towards equality in the 1900s and that is what we want to celebrate today.

This is a day to pay tribute to all the women in the world, a day to appreciate our achievements, our efforts and our willpower to fight until we achieve equality. In New Zealand, we are proud to be the first country in the world to recognise women’s right to vote, leading other countries to follow in our steps. We also have a fairly representative government, inclusive and open toward female members. Although much more work is needed.

Even with all of our efforts, women’s basic human rights are still not being respected in many countries of the world. This can be due to religious or cultural institutions, often controlled by men, which are yet to recognise basic human rights. The most extreme examples of these include honour killings and female genital mutilation – horrors which women are still subjected to in some parts of the world. This proves that we still have a long way to go as an international society.

The change starts with us. It takes one person, group or country to be a catalyst towards change. Women have proven this throughout history. Movements like feminism have led to immense change regarding the role that women have in society and the rights that society recognises. Let’s use this day to unite as an international society, appreciate our women and continue our fight towards equality.

About the Authors

Aysu Shahin is a UN Youth Volunteer on the Otago Regional Council. She is an aspiring dietician studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences majoring in Nutrition at the University of Otago. She is a lover of food, culture and science and has passion for politics and human rights, which stem from her multicultural background and upbringing in Iran.

 

Alex Stevenson is our National Volunteers Officer, she is also a public servant with a Master of International Studies with Distinction from the University of Otago. She is a keen white water kayaker and a nerd for politics.