International Women’s Day represents an opportunity to sum up the achievements or downfalls we have made in the previous year when it comes to women’s rights. It is a day for celebrating women’s achievements in all spheres of life, and the day when we are presented the local, known and unknown heroines who have built successful businesses and careers, as well as about who are involved in activism of some sort.
These days we also hear, more loudly than usual, strong voices talking about the restrictions on women’s rights, about the backlash against and downfall of the women’s rights movement.
The questions is whether or not we are we facing a severe backlash when it comes to women’s rights or is there something else to the story? It seems to me that this loud discourse tackling women’s rights is one-sided and focused only on some particular issues and specific groups of women which do not take into account the universality of women’s rights, which belong to each and every woman equally.
Are women’s rights subject to redefinition according to the time or geographical location? Are some specific groups of women more valuable than the others? Are we waging on women’s rights? When did we stop considering a mother as a genuine heroine? How is it possible that supporting a family as a fundamental social unit is not considered a key point to women’s empowerment? Is inequality real or is it a myth?
European schools and universities are equally open to both women and men to study the subject of their choice and to become what they have dreamed to be. Both women and men have equal access to our health systems. It would be unacceptable if that were not the case and if health care wasn’t provided to someone on the basis of their sex.
Women in Europe do have equal opportunities and equal access to use and benefit from all sorts of resources – educational, financial, social, political. We are not two centuries behind where women are not allowed to vote. Although access to education is equal and most women successfully finish their studies with often better success than men do, they somehow just get lost in the system.
It is a fact that men hold senior positions in companies. The reason women do not get promoted and do not hold high-ranking positions is out of a fear that women would, at some point, need to decide on having a family. The prevailing assumption is that would this leads a woman to neglect her work while she dedicates herself to her family.
A gap also exists for women with a child and men or childless women, as women’s earnings drop after giving birth. I recently read an article that sums this up in a shocking, but truthful statement which states that the “gender wage gap is mostly a penalty for having children”.
If we want to properly address the gender pay gap the solution is not to ignore female specific issues and push them into be more similar to men or to advise women to purse their careers and avoid having a family if they want to be successful.
On the contrary, we should convince governments to enact family friendly policies and legislation that will ensure a woman’s balance between her professional and personal life. Maternity and parental leave should be adequately regulated in every EU nation. Women must be properly paid during their maternity leave and their job or social rights should not be put into question. Working mothers, as well as stay at home mothers, need to be supported as they have the most important and precious job in the world in raising future generations.
Advocating for women’s empowerment today means not to discriminate against a woman for being a woman with all specifics that being a woman includes. The real feminist issue today is not only about ensuring women’s rights, but primarily to preserve the genuine role of women…something we should all stand for.