International Women’s Day 2019 calls for celebrating women’s achievement while raising awareness of continued gender bias and imbalance. Events around the globe will shine a light on the need gender parity while elevating promising ideas and solutions to achieve it.
We’ve collected recent SSIR articles on these themes and encourage you to consider your own impact on the advancements of women’s equality and human rights.
Many efforts to empower women do not address the underlying political grievances that contribute to their unequal position, writes Nimmi Gowrinathan, founder of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative. In many ways, she argues, the word “empowerment” has lost its initial vigor and allure, transitioning from an expression of pride and hope to a broad term for development strategies that often fail to provide women with concrete solutions. Gowrinathan calls for a reevaluation of current empowerment programming to give women the space to address their own inequality.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects 322 million people worldwide. In developing countries like Uganda, the vast majority of those suffering don’t seek or receive treatment due to social stigma and lack of accessible resources, among other factors. StrongMinds, a US-based nonprofit that launched its 2014 pilot program in Uganda, teaches mental health facilitators to lead peer-group therapy sessions for women with depression. The organization aims to provide two million women with this outlet by 2025. In an interview with reporter Amy Yee, StrongMinds founder Sean Mayberry draws a link between mental health and development: “By reducing and eliminating depression in Africa, we pave the way for all other behavioral change efforts to be more efficient and impactful.”
During the past few years, national discourse about sexual violence focused on the #MeToo movement, which deeply personalized data points of sexual violence, promoting a more open dialogue for empowerment and empathy. The Time’s Up movement is building upon these goals, advocating for targeted action, while providing those who experience sexual misconduct with legal and public relations assistance. Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and Moira O’Neil, senior researcher at the FrameWorks Institute, argue that framing sexual violence as a social and cultural problem (as the Time's Up movement does), rather than an individual problem, is crucial in shaping prevention strategies and addressing the systemic inequalities that influence sexual violence.
Across the globe, defenders of women’s and LGBTQ rights receive consistent threats from religious fundamentalists, right-wing nationalist extremists, and others. At the same time, there is a lack of resources going to locally-led women’s rights organizations. Since its founding in 1997, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF) and its sister funds have worked to address that, providing a lifeline in the form of rapid-response grants. Michael Seo, the founder of ReaMedica, writes about how the success of this grantmaking model rests upon its thoughtful consideration of local contexts as well as flexible funding and shorter reporting requirements that upend traditional power structures in philanthropy.
For India’s 172 million Muslims, religion-based personal laws are historically overseen by male clerics, or qazis. Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a secular women’s rights organization is training Muslim women in tenets of the Quran, the Indian constitution, and women’s rights law as a counterpart to this majority male clergy. While it is not uncommon for male clerics to allow unwarranted separations, polygamy, and other practices, the women qazis refuse to perform child marriages and honor marriages without proper documentation. Qazi Nasreen Matai feels strongly about advocating for gender justice, even if society hasn't fully accepted their authority. Our “efforts will benefit future generations of Muslim women in India,” she tells reporter Puja Changoiwala.
According to the American Express 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, women owned 39 percent of all privately held US firms, but those businesses contributed to just 4.2 percent of revenues. These figures demonstrate the necessity to reassess support for female entrepreneurs, writes Girl Scouts USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo. She argues that addressing inequality must begin with a focus on young girls. Acevedo expresses the need to provide girls with courage and confidence as well as business and technology-focused education to foster creative problem solving and leadership.
In Nigeria, youth coding education has typically been an opportunity accessible only to boys and select girls whose families are financially comfortable. Girls Coding, a free after-school and weekend program run by Pearls Africa Foundation, extends this opportunity to girls residing in slums, orphanages, and correctional homes, as well as those displaced by militant conflict. “Some of [the girls] may have gotten pregnant, dropped out of school, or simply have gotten lost in all the wrongs around them. But now they have dreams and are working towards achieving them, ” volunteer Esohe Osinoiki tells journalist Festus Iyorah. Iyorah examines the program as an an effort to provide Nigerian girls with practical skills for their future while addressing gender imbalances in the country’s tech industry.