Happy International Women's Day! Here's Why It Matters

Every year, when this day comes around, some things are inevitable. Someone will ask 'What about International Man's Day?' And someone else will ask 'But why do we still need International Women's Day? Aren't women equal now?'

Well, the obvious reason is because women still don't enjoy full political, social and economic equality to men. And because we need to keep reminding people about that - especially in parts of the world where it's easy for people to convince themselves that everything's fine.

International Women's Day was started 101 years ago as a socialist celebration of women and their work; in 1977 the UN adopted it as a day to highlight the inequalities faced by women all over the world. Since then, it's been a day of celebrations and protests, drawing attention to the fact that there are many countries in which women are still fighting for what we consider the most basic of things - an education, freedom of movement.

And that according to the UN, women do 66% of the world's work, produce 50% of its food and earn a whopping 10% of its income. And own just 1% of its property. Yes, just 1% of all property in the world is owned by women.

And while things have come a long way in Ireland, we're certainly not living in some sort of feminist utopia (or dystopia, as conservative columnists are fond of claiming. Yes, the paygap has shrunk. Women make up just 15.1 per cent of the Dail (compared to a 24 per cent EU average), a third of state boards, and less than a quarter of local and regional authorities. The vast majority of senior civil servants are male – from 82.4 per cent of secretary generals to 69.4 per cent of principal officers (77.4 per cent of clerical officers, on the other hand, are female).


Even in professions dominated by women, they don’t get the top jobs – 52.6 per cent of non-consultant medical and dental professionals are women, but only 35.7 per cent of consultants. Even secondary schools, where women make up 63 per cent of teachers, only 40 per cent of management staff are female.

And the inequality continues when we're at home  - a 2008 study by the ESRI and the Equality Authority showed that women, including those in paid employment, still do the vast majority of housework. In fact, including both paid and unpaid work, women work on average 39 minutes longer than men every day. They just don’t get paid for lots of it.

And let's not forget the fact that we still don't have total control of our own bodies and reproductive health.

International Women's Day is a reminder that no matter where we are, women have been fighting for the same things as men for years – equality. And while sometimes it seems like it's all two steps forward and three steps back, this amazing map shows how things have changed - scroll over the time line to see how women have gained political power over the last century (and click on each country to find out how women are doing there). Things have got a lot better, but we're not there yet - not by a long way. And until we are, I'll keep celebrating International Women's Day.


Oh, and there is an International Men's Day. It's November 9th.

So what about you? Do you agree we still need a day that's all about the ladies? And if so, are you doing anything to celebrate it? I'm off for a few drinks with a bunch of like-minded friends myself.

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