1. 63 million girls still need to go to school.
2. Globally, about ⅓ women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime.
3. Every 2 seconds, a girl under the age of 18 is married.
4. Every 60 seconds, 6 women are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation.
International Women’s Day is not only a day of celebration, but also a time to think and reflect on the journey that is still ahead of us in the pursuit of global equality. The statistics above are unpleasant, and chosen them to make us feel uncomfortable. Whilst we have achieved so many equal opportunities for women in the UK, they are a stark reminder that we are amongst the world’s most privileged, and that other women around the globe face oppression and mistreatment on a daily basis. It would be easy, comforting even, to sit down and pat ourselves on the back for what we have already accomplished in the fight for gender equality. But to do so would be an injustice to the 530 million illiterate women around the world, to the 40,320 underaged girls married off today alone and to the 137 women who will be killed today by either their partner or a family member.
As educated citizens, the fact that 63 million girls are not in school should be a statistic that we take to heart. Whilst we take for granted the ready access that we have to education, the majority of girls globally involuntarily drop out before reaching secondary school if they even get through their primary education. This has a devastating impact on their lives. Girls who do not complete school are more likely to live a life of extreme poverty; they miss out on vital knowledge that affects all areas of their life - from how to protect their sexual health to how to defend their own human rights. One study found that non-literate women were four times more likely to believe that HIV could not be prevented. Without an education, any girl would struggle to protect herself and fully take control of her life. It would be easy for us to claim that we, as individuals, cannot make a difference to the astounding statistics, but our education is a weapon that we can, and should use to change the world. We should be fighting for those who have no fight left in them, for those who have never been taught that they are worth fighting for. Our hearts should hurt for the women around the globe who have never had anyone tell them that they are valuable and priceless.
The theme for this years International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter. It highlights how this isn’t an issue solely for the lawmakers of our lands or for Hollywood. This is an issue for all of us, men and women alike, regardless of age, race or religion. The time is now to build a world in which men and women are treated equally and we all have a role to play in this change. Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained that "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."
Let’s be the people who care. It begins with you.
Statistics (listed in order of appearance) obtained from the following sources: