International Women’s Day prompts those of us working towards gender equality to take stock and reflect. In our lifetimes, never have 12 months been more seminal in the gender equality movement. The Women’s Marches last January set the tone, signalling people’s single-minded determination to enshrine women’s rights as human rights.
The surfacing of sexual harassment scandals – including in the development sector – have, however, highlighted just how far we still have to go. And, movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo are now galvanising women across the globe to tackle gender discrimination once and for all. What does this mean in terms of global progress today?
It’s clear these campaigns have been incredibly valuable. They have given women in positions of power a chance to shape new behaviours and have provided three essential gifts to those with less power. Firstly, the reassurance to those facing similar abuses that they are not alone – an important end in itself to build hope. Secondly, a global platform for girls and women to use their voice to express their own grievances. Thirdly, an opportunity for those who once felt powerless to now act as a role model and be part of a collective that sets a new normal. #TimesUp and #MeToo have brought a tidal wave of global conversation and collective action around gender discrimination. This is a huge movement and a great step forward.
However, amidst all of this progress, an important question comes to mind. What about the millions of girls, in countries like the one I live in - Ethiopia - that don’t know this campaign exists? They never see it, nor do they hear about it. These girls are in as much need as their peers across the globe - if not more so.