International Women's Day : You may be thinking why is this day so important?

Phurden Lepcha
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Every year on the 8th of March International Women's Day is celebrated across the globe. It's a day to recognize female achievement and a call to action encouraging everyone to stand up for women's rights and gender equality. Gender equality means no matter your gender you're granted the same rights, privileges and access to opportunities as everyone else.

You may be thinking why is this day so important?

Throughout history women have had to fight for the freedom and rights we enjoy today. 150 years ago women couldn't vote, stand in parliament, receive proper medical attention, own property, access their legal support, get paid the same as men, visit the same public areas as men, get a proper education, the list goes on. 150 years ago people lived in a very different world to what we know now.

So how did things change?
Someone didn't snap their fingers and then women had all the rights. Change occurred gradually through the tireless efforts of brave women and men fighting together for what is right.
Let's rewind in the late 19th century the fight for women suffrage began gaining momentum. Suffrage means the right to vote and at this time only men could do so this meant that all the political decisions were decided by men including those that only affected women. As time passed some women grew increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress and failed attempts to achieve suffrage. One of these women was Emmeline Pankhurst who responded by forming the women's social and political union in 1903 which encouraged stronger kind of activism. This led to years of protests rallies and strikes with women being arrested, jailed injured, and some even losing their lives in the fight for suffrage. When the first world war was declared in 1914, suffrage gets shifted their campaign to encourage women's involvement in the war effort. The devastation of war brought the nation together in support of one another and attitudes began to change. Women took on responsibilities and jobs that they were previously excluded from like working as mechanics and drivers.

In 1918 the representation of the people bill was passed giving women the right to vote. However, it was only some women of a certain age and circumstance. It wasn't until 1928, that all women over 21 were finally allowed to vote. The right to vote is instrumental in creating a society that is fair and just. Imagine if all the UK were one gigantic football team. Half of the team can play exactly as they are while the other is blindfolded. The team probably isn't going to do so great. The same goes for a society. If everyone has the same rights and freedoms a society can grow and develop in a way that benefits everyone. Once women were able to vote the ball began rolling on other rights like political representation, access to greater opportunities, fairer pay, and working rights. As you can see change takes time. It wasn't until 1979, that Britain had its first female Prime Minister which was 76 years after Emmeline Pankhurst first established the women's social and political union. 

So what does gender equality look like today?
We are fortunate to live in a time and place where incredible opportunities are in abundance. Everyone can get an education, access healthcare, get a job and speak their minds. 

However, we still have some work to do before we reach equality for all. One way that gender inequality plays out in our everyday life is through stereotypes. A stereotype is a generalized opinion of a person or group of people. Ever heard someone say something like you throw like a girl or boys don't cry. These kinds of phrases exist because of centuries of restrictive ideas about gender that really aren't true or fair. People are way too unique and complex to fit neatly in a box. Girls and boys can be athletic, fast and strong and of course everyone cries. It's normal and healthy to express your feelings and to be vulnerable. Stereotypes can be really damaging and can prevent you from being yourself and reaching your potential. 

Today women are still the minority in parliament. Leadership roles and career fields like science and engineering as well as making less money than men on average. So this international women's day think about what you could do to help in the fight for equality everyone benefits when we are all treated equally. Why not celebrate the amazing achievements of women you admire especially now you know just what it took to get there.

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