“I do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.” says Mary Wollestonecrat
It is this fundamental thought that underlines the very soul of women’s empowerment around the world. Women form about 50% of World’s population and if not empowered the nations will end up paralyzed. Women’s empowerment is a process of personal and social change through which they gain power, meaningful choices and control over their lives. It is to reiterate this thought and further enhance the active involvement of society into already practical campaigns, International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th of March every year around the world.
The very soul of the inception of this thought is found in Islam. Islam has empowered women with the most progressive rights, and has done so since the 7th century. When it comes to celebrating a Day of Social awareness, the first ever IWD happened in New York in 1909. It was organized by the Socialist Party of America in remembrance of the strike organized by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers union the year before. In case we forget amidst all the celebrations, IWD is a product of working women who wanted change. We should still be campaigning for that change but instead we hear women explain that if we could just get a few more women on boards we’d be sorted. If we could teach girls the power of believing in themselves we’d have nothing to worry about. Both of these things are important but let’s stop kidding ourselves that the second we achieve them our work here is done.
To recall the equal significance of women’s role in the development of nations, international Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.
The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Since then, the UN has helped create a historic legacy of internationally agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide. Over the years, the UN and its technical agencies have promoted the participation of women as equal partners with men in achieving sustainable development, peace, security, and full respect for human rights. The empowerment of women continues to be a central feature of the UN’s efforts to address social, economic and political challenges across the globe.
After thousands of years of oppression, women across the world are occupying key positions in all spheres of society. A women’s role has changed tremendously and is making its greatest impact in our society today. Many years ago, women’s contribution to society was limited and controlled by men. Women are standing tall and are playing a major role in many important areas. Women’s role has changed at an accelerating rate and have part in areas such as Politics, Professional Training Jobs, Medicine, Business and Law. Formerly they were not part of any political matter, but they have advanced in many aspects. For example, women have attained power and have been growing in political office. Women’s impact is simply due to the fact that they are now educating themselves.
Here, some cultures and societies raise a question: Why should we empower women and achieve gender equality?
A number of studies have shown that sustainable development is impossible without women’s empowerment and gender equality. Consequently, it is asserted that gender equality is both a human rights issue and a precondition for, and indicator of, sustainable development. It is also affirmed that gender disparity is prevalent across the cultures of the world and that without serious steps to tackle it, sustainable development cannot be achieved. Furthermore, UN Women rightly outlined that “To create a just and sustainable world and to enhance women’s roles in sustaining their families and communities, achieving gender equality is paramount.” On the other hand, if gender equality is not maintained, it will retard the globe’s development.
Much difference has been made through the awareness campaigns in commemoration of Women’s Day every year and then by furthering those ideas into action throughout the year, yet much is to be achieved. So many social media movements like #MeToo, #SheInsiresMe, #Women’sMarch and many more are interpreted to give women freedom of speech to vomit out what stings them in the form of sexual harassment or sexual abuse, women serving as inspiration to other women and women marching out to be heard respectively. Girls are being educated though the ratio in rural and backward cultures is still very low as compared to the urban societies.
Thereby empowering women and providing fair representation across the law-making, law-enforcing, and law-interpreting organs, as well as any government institutions, play a remarkable role in political development, in particular, and sustainable development of a country in general. This is to be ensured that women play an equal role in shaping the decisions, rules and structures so as to influence their lives to lead to long-term, sustainable changes. Hence, the nations need to devote a considerable amount of effort and resources to increasing women’s participation in political affairs by providing them with the necessary trainings to enhance their skills and competitiveness so as to bring about positive political change suitable for sustainable development. In addition, sustainable development is a shared responsibility of various stakeholders, not merely the government. Accordingly, scholars strongly recommend broader participation in governance to achieve sustainable development. Therefore, the political environment of the country should be participatory in the sense that not only women but also all other marginalized segments of society should be allowed to participate and thereby discharge their shared responsibility in achieving sustainable development.