Today is International Women’s Day. It is a day where we can celebrate the worldwide achievement of women, but also a day where we can challenge ourselves to “be aware [that] progress has slowed in many places across the world, so urgent action is needed to accelerate gender parity.” This year’s theme is centers on the pledge for parity. The Oxford English Dictionary defines parity as “equality or equivalence, especially as regards status, pay, or value.” Honoring this interpretation of parity, International Women’s Day 2016 seeks to illuminate the progress by which women in this global community continue to progressively contribute to societal, political, economic, cultural, and individual achievement. However, despite much to celebrate, International Women’s Day also seeks to convict people across the world that there is much yet to achieve. A study conducted by the World Economic Forum “predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.” However, by pledging for parity, “[e]veryone – men and women – can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly – whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias.”
As a woman, I find it easy to align myself with the mission and ambitions of this day. But, this day, as it stands as pillar for worldwide transformation and the achievement of gender equity, is not only relevant for women. Each of us, men and women, can relate to the goals of a global women’s rights movement. Why? Because we are all human. Each of us, at some point in our lives, has realized the weight and value of our inherent rights. We have had instances and moments that have defined the significance of these rights- instances where we have experienced these rights to have been threatened, to have become partially lost, or wholly erased; moments where we have dedicated our lives to fighting for and achieving these rights for ourselves and for those like us. Therefore, since we have all experienced the importance of these inherent human rights, the ambitions of International Women’s Day should be no less vital for the flourishment of our global community. In joining together to achieve gender equity, we may come to realize that each of us possess a unique voice, each of our hearts are burdened by a specific issue or cause, and each of our souls are ignited by a distinct purpose. See, the beauty of our collective global community is that we can use each of our individualities to affect world-change. When we come together to advance the cause and ambitions of a certain group of people, we give strength to that cause in order to catapult it to fruition. For these reasons, we join together to acknowledge the purpose, celebrate the achievements, and advance the ambitions of International Women’s Day.
With this year’s theme, pledge for parity, you can apply your individual passions, strengths, and talents towards achieving gender equity by focusing on one of five vital advancements: help women and girls achieve their ambitions, challenge conscious and unconscious bias, call for gender-balanced leadership, value women and men’s contributions equally, and create inclusive, flexible cultures. From my experiences abroad, to my passion in the study of my major, to the enriching friendships that have influenced my life, I was led to pledge to help women and girls achieve their ambitions. For me, this pledge reflects the personal ambitions, longings, and influences that have been placed on my heart. By committing to my pledge, I was humbled by the experiences that have allowed my path to cross with the paths of women and girls in Mexico, Honduras, South Africa, and Uganda. I was enlightened of the various conversations that I have had with these women and girls in developing countries around the world and the way in which they trusted me with their stories. I was reminded of how their individual accounts of bravery, perseverance and achievement, however great or small, has inspired me to use my voice to support their dreams, passions, and talents. But, by committing to my pledge, I was also reminded of all the ways that women in my life have inspired the pursuit of my own dreams, challenged my ability to push past individually or socially constructed parameters, and contribute my unique personhood to the world’s achievements. One of these women is my best friend, Nimah, who is currently on a Fulbright Scholarship, teaching English and implementing artistic practices to students in Kolkata, India. Over the past eight months, I have been encouraged and inspired to watch her gentleness, kindness, empathy, compassion, and selflessness in shaping the dreams and ambitions of her group of students. I have been amazed to see how she has been challenged, how she has triumphed, and how she has grown in sharing her life, light, and heart with her students. On this day, along with many others, I celebrate the incredible women like Nimah who are enlightening the world around them. In turn, I am inspired to use whatever passions, strengths, talents, and ideas that I have to uniquely and positively influence the world around me. To me, that is the beauty that is threaded throughout the goals and ambitions of this day- that, together, our strengths and dreams can inspire one another to change the world.
So, today, celebrate what makes you unique by offering that uniqueness, that strength, and that undeniable spirit to enable the voices of women and girls around the world. Today, be reminded that your voices are powerful, that your dreams carry undeniable weight, and that your passions burn effervescently with a flame that cannot be quenched so that you can pass on your torch to those around the world whose light may be dimmed. Today, use your own experiences, fearlessly define your own dreams, and unapologetically exceed any limitations crafted by yourself or by others so that you may inspire women and girls around the world to do the same. Today, celebrate a woman’s world.
“We must tell girls their voices are important.”- Malala Yousafzai