The narrative surrounding women’s rights in 2020 carries much hope and possibility. This year’s International Women’s Day, bearing the theme “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights,” falls on the celebration’s 110th anniversary.
The occasion is monumental, and with 10 years remaining to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, such milestone moments will be written about, documented in the news, and read by many.
These dates are significant, of course, yet there is an undertone of wishful thinking that events in themselves can ignite powerful change, and a simplicity that disregards the more complex and insidious existence of systematic inequality.
That’s the issue with these occasions fostered by those with access – they create a barrier to understanding for those who aren’t even aware they are occurring. They don’t form part of everyday life for those most actively affected.
Women denied education, for example, won’t understand what specific legislation means for them. And Women with the privilege of being part of such occasions are likely to have a recognizable level of emancipation from explicit forms of oppression.
Political figures with an unequivocal platform to promote equality are becoming increasingly visible. From Germany’s Angela Merkl to New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden, torch bearers abound. But whilst 2020 could be a landmark year for gender equality, the efforts required to reach our goal have to be deliberate and far reaching. Just the instance of these events happening won’t have any measurable result.
With the SDGs acting as a blueprint for global efforts to eliminate poverty and inequality by 2030, the 10 years we have to achieve this are scarcely enough. More than half of the 129 countries measured in the 2019 SDG Gender Index scored poorly on SDG 5, which calls for international gender equality and the empowerment of all women. As the UN highlights: “The emerging global consensus is that despite some progress, real change has been agonisingly slow for the majority of women and girls in the world.”