March 2022 saw us celebrate Women’s History Month, an important reminder of the impact of women in history as well as a tribute to the work and achievements of women all over the world today. From my position of relative privilege in a forward-thinking independent girls’ school, where women are encouraged to chase their ambitions on a daily basis, I have spent the month researching and furthering my knowledge of the subject and I have asked myself the following: why is it important to celebrate women, this month and always? By and large, the world would not be the same today without the work of remarkable females such as Rosa Parks, who invigorated the struggle for racial equality, and Emmeline Pankhurst, for her leading role in helping to win women the right to vote in 1918 Britain. These women, each with a fearless mind and a hunger for equality, created an environment that most of us can currently live safely in and achieve whatever career we dream of. However, there is still work to be done.
A continuing struggle for women and a discourse that continues in today’s society is the gender pay gap. Although, through the years, the pay gap is narrowing, currently women worldwide make 77 percent of the amount paid to men, according to a report from the United Nation’s International Labour Organisation. This model of female oppression is unfortunately also influenced by demographic, with black and Latina women experiencing the pay gap at an even more strenuous rate. Did you know that black women must work 19 months to make what white men will receive in a year? Furthermore, Latina women make 57 cents for every US dollar made by a white man. Many women today have been granted access to the career paths of their dreams but one might agree that this form of oppression almost takes away from these successes. When a man is offered more opportunity in an industry that also pays them more simply because of their gender, it allows the stigma of inequality to linger around for longer than we had hoped.
Another example of current female oppression is the lack of female education. Although at Farnborough Hill, and almost every other school within the UK, girls are able to access a fair and beneficial education, many countries do not provide the same opportunities. For example, in South Sudan, not only do 73 percent of girls not attend primary school, only 2.6 percent of the government’s total budget is spent on education. Moreover, only 17 percent of girls and women are literate in Niger, which is a shocking figure. Globally, there are 130 million girls who are not currently enrolled in school. I know you will agree that these numbers are alarming and their significance certainly great in considering the changes that need to be made to make a difference for women worldwide. Factors such as child marriage, poverty, and period stigma are stopping girls from reaching their full potential and stealing away many opportunities to learn. When girls receive quality educations, they see the benefits in all aspects of their lives. For instance, women who complete secondary education are less likely to experience domestic violence and they report higher levels of psychological well-being. They go on to make higher incomes and their children are healthier. Putting an end to oppression within female education now will show significant improvement in the future generations.
This month, and always, it is essential for us to celebrate women by remembering the work of those before us and fighting against inequality. Educating yourself on the underrepresentation of women, gender bias and stereotypes and raising your voice in the face of female oppression are simply the first steps in making a difference.