Action Alert

Celebrating Women’s Equality Day: August 26, 2017

Women are making strides toward equality, but much more needs to be done to eliminate discrimination against women.

Celebrating Women’s Equality Day: August 26, 2017
At the International Women's Day Rally in Nashville, 2013

Women’s equality for women and girls worldwide means that every woman and girl will have the same opportunities, equal rights and treatment as their male counterparts. Every day women work to have the same rights and opportunities as men, whether it is in terms of political advancement, economic advancement or healthcare rights. Women have paved the way for future generations to challenge injustices. Gender equality is not only a fundamental right, but is essential for peace and prosperity. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 recognizes the importance for all nations “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

Women's Equality Day

Women's Equality Day commemorates August 26, the anniversary of women’s suffrage in 1920. This day was a turning point in the history of the struggle for equal treatment of women and women’s rights. Today, women’s equality has grown to mean much more than just the right to vote. Women are often denied their right to education and to be protected from gender-based violence, are unable to make important decisions about their lives and futures, and do not have equality in the public square and in the workplace. The result is shocking: Each year 15 million girls marry and have children before they are 18 years old.

  • Worldwide 35 percent of women experience some form of sexual or physical violence.
  • Women comprise more than 50 percent of the world’s population, but own only 1 percent of the world’s wealth.
  • In 46 countries, women hold more than 22 percent of the seats in at least one legislative body, but only 9 serve as heads of state.
  • In the U.S., women make up only 19.6 percent of the U.S. Congress.
  • Living an average of nearly six years longer than men, women over 65 are today more than one and a half times more likely to live in poverty than men in the same age bracket.
  •  More than 60 percent of all premature deaths from household air pollution in 2012 were among women and children.
  • Around 64 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in education, humanities and social sciences went to women, compared to only 31 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in science and engineering.
  • Worldwide, 62 million girls are denied an education.
  • Every year, an estimated 15 million girls under 18 are married worldwide, with little or no say in the matter. Girls Not Brides studies the problem and is working to find workable solutions. They know that education and empowerment for girls are the first steps.
  • At least 1,000 honor killings occur in India and Pakistan each annually. Honor-based crimes are distinguished by the fact that they are often carried out by a victim's family or community.
  •  By 2018, there will be 1.4 million open technology jobs in the U.S. and, at the current rate of students graduating with degrees in computer science, only 29 percent of applicants will be women. Girls Who Code aims to educate and expose at least 1 million girls to computer science by 2020.
  • More than 43 million people around the world are forcibly displaced as a result of conflict and persecution. Half of all refugees are women. Zainab Salbi founded Women for Women International to help women in war-torn countries build their own futures.

In many societies men dominate the executive ranks, and women face disproportionate challenges in their efforts to rise to the top. This month, Google terminated a male employee who posted a memo minimizing women’ skills. He pointed to women’s “innate biological differences” as the cause of their underrepresentation as leaders in the technology sector.

The Pay Gap

The pay gap affects women from all backgrounds, at all ages and at all levels of educational achievement, although earnings and the gap vary depending on a woman’s individual situation.

Among full-time workers in 2015, Hispanic and Latin, African-American, Native American, Native Hawaiian and other native women had lower median annual earnings compared with non-Hispanic white and Asian-American women. On average, black women earn only 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men — meaning they must work a full 19 months to earn what a white man does in 12 months. Living an average of nearly 6 years longer than men, women over 65 are today more than one and a half times more likely to live in poverty than men in the same age bracket.

Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, stated that “There is a lot of work to be done before culture and policy can align toward progress.” Organizations such as Equality Now and Womankind Worldwide continue to work to provide women across the globe with equal opportunities to education and employment, working to stem oppression and violence toward women and fighting the discrimination and stereotyping that still occur in our society.

Earlier this year, the Council on Foreign Relations wrote: “On January 21, 2017, the Women’s March on Washington, DC, became the largest international mass demonstration in support of women’s rights. Affiliated marches ranging in size from several dozen to several hundred thousand people were held in towns and cities around the world, including Accra, Bangkok, Paris, Nairobi, Belgrade, Buenos Aires, Krakow, and even Antarctica. Many marches were accompanied by training sessions for women seeking political office, youth initiatives, and discussions of issues ranging from wage inequality to freedom from violence.”

The world has seen what women are capable of achieving. Despite the constraints women face, we celebrate the steps that have been taken toward attaining equality. 

Posted or updated: 8/24/2017 12:00:00 AM

  UN Women: Spotlight on Sustainable Development Goal 5

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Take Action:

Contact your local congressional representative at the Capital Switchboard (202-224-3121) or in their district office to voice your support for:
  • S. 1141: Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 - A bill to ensure that the United States promotes the meaningful participation of women in mediation and negotiation processes seeking to prevent, mitigate, or resolve violent conflict.
  • H.R. 2095 - Fair Pay Act of 2017 - A bill that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on account of sex, race, or national origin, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 2408: Protecting Girls’ Access to Education Act - A bill to enhance the transparency, improve the coordination, and intensify the impact of assistance to support access to primary and secondary education for displaced children and persons, including women and girls, and for other purposes.
  • S. 44 - End Pay Discrimination Through Information Act - A bill that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to improve non-retaliation provisions relating to equal pay requirements.
  • Since 1992, Equality Now has advanced women’s and girls’ rights by combining legal advocacy with strategic litigation to influence policy makers to strengthen human rights laws and mechanisms, holding governments accountable to international human rights law and standards. (212) 586-0906                 
  • Womankind Worldwide is a global women’s rights organization working in solidarity and equal partnership with women’s rights organizations and movements to transform the lives of women. Their vision is of a just world where the rights of all women are respected, valued and realized. + 44 (0) 2035 675930                              
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