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“All lives have equal value and that no one should be denied a better life because of their gender.”

 Melinda Gates, author of “the Moment of Lift”

As a woman-owned and women-run news organization, you may think that Ark Valley Voice may have more reasons than most to celebrate today, March 8, which is International Women’s Day. But today, we simply celebrate every woman-owned business, every family whose core is the wife, mother, holder-together-of the family, every woman who dreams of learning, building, creating, teaching, serving, or becoming what she was meant to be.

A young girl references the role of one of the heroines of the Harry Potter book series to Harry’s success. Photo by Dulcey Lima for Unsplash

This year, the theme of this one day is “Choose to Challenge.” The theme encourages all of us to challenge gender bias and inequality in the world, and in our own corner of this world. It also encourages questioning the societal inequities that exist not just in poor countries, but in the developed world.

This day, which began in 1911, celebrates the contributions of women to the world’s economy, the world’s civility, and the world’s humanity.

Equality escapes a large swath of the world’s female gender. The statistics aren’t just sobering, they are unjust. According to the World Economic Forum:

  • Just 39 percent of girls in rural areas of the world get the chance to go to school. Education is a prime determinant of economic survival, hunger and poverty.
  • Women are 47 percent more likely to suffer severe injuries in car crashes because safety features are designed for men.
  • Women in rural parts of Africa spend 40 billion hours a year just collecting water because they live in huts without the barest rudiments of modern conveniences.
  • A typical economy (even a western economy) only gives women three-quarters the rights of men in the measured areas. For instance, only  22 percent of AI professionals are women — it could be due to gender inequality in education, leading to girl’s lack of confidence in science and math that result in them avoiding technical fields.
  • The U.S. is one of only eight countries in the world that provide no form of paid maternity leave; a left-over from a male-dominated, macho attitude that women should somehow just ‘cope with it’ perhaps?
    Maternity leave has been linked to fewer newborn and infant deaths, higher rates of breastfeeding, less postpartum depression, and a more hands-on role for new fathers. Women who have the opportunity of proper paid maternity leave are more likely to stay in the workforce and earn higher wages. Only the United States and seven smaller nations still offer no such compensation; saying a lot about what they think of a mother’s role in raising the next generation of children in a world that requires a two-worker household.

At the current rates of progress, according to the World Economic Forum’s most recent Global Gender Gap report, it will take another 108 years (to 2129) to reach gender parity. By then, the goal post may have moved again.

What we can do right now is encourage our girls to focus their lives to make a difference — to dream big and go after that dream — and their fathers and our boys to be the kind of men who support them.

We can also continue the push for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which since its passage by Congress in March of 1972, has languished without the requisite two-thirds (38-state) ratification to make it law.

First proposed by the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was to provide for the legal equality of the sexes and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by the U.S. Senate in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification.  Without its passage, equal rights for all, regardless of gender, are not protected by the United States Constitution. In its current form, the Equal Rights Amendment reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”