Today is International Women’s Day, when people around the world come together to celebrate women. But what does this day really mean, and why do we need to celebrate it? And how does this link to the Women for Peace project run by the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation?
The idea of an International Women’s Day began in the early 1900s, and since 1975 it has been recognised by the United Nations on 8th March. Today many counties take it as a national holiday including Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia, and in China, Madagascar and Nepal it is a national holiday for women only. It is not a national holiday in the UK.
Some may ask why we need to celebrate women if we are working towards gender equality. Our response would be that throughout history women have struggled to be represented, to participate in public life, and to have access to the rights and services that they are entitled to as human beings. Today is an opportunity to focus on the incredible contributions of women around the world, from those who fought 100 years ago for women’s suffrage in the UK, to those still working hard for their own rights in countries worldwide, often putting their lives in danger in the process.
In order to create more peaceful societies, women must be included in the process. From community level dialogue right up to international peace negotiations women continue to be underrepresented. The UK Government’s recent National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security explains that when women have genuine involvement in a peace process “it is much more likely that an agreement will be reached and implemented, and the peace is 35% more likely to last for fifteen years.”
The Peace Foundation’s Women for Peace project aims to empower women to contribute to peace. Through a 10-week programme exploring identity, prejudice, extremism, conflict resolution and leadership, participants build confidence in their abilities to deal with conflicts at home, at work, and in their broader communities. By bringing together diverse groups of women, they are able to learn from one another’s experiences, and create strong support networks.
This year the hashtag #PressforProgress is being used, to remind us of how much more work needs to be done. We have come along way, and yet there is much more to do to reach gender equality in the UK and elsewhere. So this International Women’s Day, let us celebrate the inspiring women in our communities, and continue to support and empower those who are working tirelessly every day to #PressforProgress.
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