International women´s day 2013 – Let´s look into their eyes and do something

I am generally not one to support or promote international festivals or commemorative dates.  So today, International Women´s Day, I face a dilemma.

On the one hand, my belief that we should not have a day specially designated to remind us that we need to treat half of humanity a lot better. We should have learnt by now to do so respectfully and in an egalitarian manner. On the other hand, the cruel and harsh reality of this year´s slogan :  “A promise is a promise – Time for action to end violence against women.”

Then I read an article by Rita Banerji, a LinkedIn contact from an Amnesty International group , where she sadly reports:

¨In another two decades, India will have annihilated 20 percent of its female population. To get an estimate of how many women that would be, add up the entire populations of Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Portugal. In less than a century, more than 50 million women have been targeted simply for being female and wiped out from India.  Millions have been killed before birth. Millions killed as infants. Millions killed as little girls. Thousandskilled as new bridesThousands killed as they are forced through repeated, back-to-back,unsafe abortions  to get rid of girls.  Thousands more killed for so-called “honor” or branded as “witches” and mob lynched. And many burnt alive as widows on the pyres of their husbands. Killed at every stage of life–simply for being female! There is no other human group in history that has been persecuted and annihilated on this scale. So, how did the world close its eyes to this?¨

Sunita - a Gypsy girl from Pushkar, India

The scale tilts.

It tilts radically in favour of making an issue of it. Not because we are women, or radical feminists or because we feel we deserve to be celebrated or because we want to punish the other half of the population.

No, I´m going to make an issue out of it, even at the risk of doing so in a space that is not designated for that purpose, because violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent. Because, according to one United Nations estimate, 113 to 200 million women are “demographically missing” from the world today. That is to say, there should be 113 to 200 million more women walking the earth, who aren’t. By that same estimate, 1.5 to 3 million women and girls lose their lives every year because of gender-based neglect or gender-based violence and sexual violence in conflict.

And that is unacceptable – not just because they are (or would have been) women, but because they are human beings.

Mucubal tribe woman - Angola

I need to make an issue because millions of young women disappear in their native land every year to be later found held against their will in other places and forced into prostitution. It is estimated that around 500,000 girls below 18 are victims of trafficking each year.

And that, too, is totally unacceptable.

According to the UNAIDS around 17.3 million, women (almost half of the total number of HIV-positive cases) live with HIV. While this illness is often driven by poverty it is also associated with inequality, gender-based abuses and economic transition. Besides, violence and discrimination prevent women from freely accessing HIV/AIDS information, from negotiating condom use, and from resisting unprotected sex with an HIV-positive partner, yet most of the governments have failed to take any meaningful steps to prevent and punish such abuse.

Afghan woman by Martien van asseldonk on Flickr

Afghan woman by Martien van asseldonk on Flickr

That too, is unacceptable.

Millions of women suffer from discrimination in the workplace. Many governments turn a blind eye to illegal practices and enact and enforce discriminatory laws. Corporations and private individuals engage in abusive and sexist practices without fear of legal systems.

More women are working now than ever before, but they are also more likely than men to get low-productivity, low-paid and vulnerable jobs, with no social protection, basic rights nor voice at work according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) issued for International Women’s Day 2008.

So, for these and for many other alarming and totally unacceptable reasons we have used this space to call on all our restless, concerned community of readers to take this day to look at all the eyes of the women who need our support and, one way or another, contribute to make a different world, one where, as Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said today ‎”every girl is born with freedom in her heart and has the chance to grow old with that freedom.”

So, let´s all help out:

www.un.org/womenwatch/

www.un.org/women/endviolence/

www.saynotoviolence.org/

www.unaids.org

www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/

Peruvian woman near Cusco

Peruvian woman near Cusco

Albino baby girl and her Mwila mother - Angola

Mwila mother with albino baby girl – Angola

Mwila Woman, Angola, Image by mytripsmypics on Flickr

Mwila Woman, Angola, Image by mytripsmypics on Flickr

Maori woman

Maori woman

Tibetan mother and child

Tibetan mother and child

If you come to Pyongyang, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair...

North Korean army officer