Yesterday, the world marked International Women’s Day under the theme #BalanceforBetter. There were several celebrations of women’s achievements using the hashtag. Then there were the campaigns meant to push for equality in workspaces. For instance, at the Civil Aviation Authority, women controlled air traffic all day and the authority ran short profiles of these women.
In other spaces, the problems women still face such as being denied an education, gender-based violence and discrimination at the workplace were also highlighted. In short, women were in the spotlight all day, and celebrations will continue throughout March since it is Women’s History Month.
The celebrations, awareness and action to empower women are definitely important. To quote The Most Rev Justin Welby: “But there’s also the question of how long we carry on ‘celebrating’ anniversaries like this.
In a sense, you want the ministry of women to become something unremarkable. Something that’s just part of the normal fabric of the life of the Church. But we need to recognise that we’re not there yet. As well as the high points and moments of celebration, many women still face huge challenges.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury made the remark on the 25th anniversary of women being ordained as priests in the Church of England.
Indeed we look forward to the day when women being in spaces that are still hugely male-dominated will be part of the norm. When the fight for women empowerment will truly not be one for only women to take up but that everyone in society will take up this mantle.
In the media, while we have taken steps to tell women’s stories, less women are willing to be quoted or tell their stories compared to their male counterparts. Reasons range from the fear of being misunderstood and not wanting the people in their families to find out that they are doing well, to their spouses being uncomfortable with them being in the news.
It is rare for a man to turn down being a source for a story because his spouse will be unhappy about it. So there is still a problem of women using the available spaces to tell their stories even as more of these are being opened up every day. This is why it is important that everyone –man or woman – must participate in this empowerment drive.
Amid the celebrations, some wondered how long stories of women breaking into spaces would be told. We say, as long as problems of inequity, non-representation and oppression continue, we will “celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality” not just this month but all year round.