Examining Gender Parity on International Women’s Day

By Amelda Zotter and JoAnna Lipari

International Women's Day has been celebrated around the world since the early 1900s. Originally, its aim was to provide a forum for women to campaign for equality and guarantee their human rights. Over the years, International Women’s Day has turned into a time to reflect on progress made, continue to call for change, and celebrate acts of courage by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

The theme for International Women’s Day on March 8 this year is “Pledge for Parity”. Today, we take a moment to reflect on how the milestone of parity has changed over time and the biggest obstacles to gender equality that the global development community must tackle.

To share successes and challenges, Chemonics, in partnership with the Asia Foundation, USAID, World Vision, Knowledge for Health (K4Health), the USAID Assist Project, and Promundo participated in an online Twitter conversation on March 7 to celebrate International Women’s Day using #IWDchat16. In the Twitter chat, Chemonics sparked conversation around three questions:

Question 1: What is gender parity and how is it defined differently around the world?

To define gender parity, repeated voices called for equality of access to health services, education, opportunities, and technology. Countries which set an example in gender parity, according to the Economist Glass Ceiling Index of 2016, were Iceland, Sweden, and Finland.

Question 2: Where have there been signs of progress toward gender parity?

This question garnered multiple success stories from around the world. One engaging resource was the UNDP review of 2015 gender parity successes, which summarizes achievements such as the election of Nepal’s first female president, the “It was never a dress” campaign, and the Latin America Model Protocol for the Investigation of Gender-Related Violence. Chemonics also shared about activities in Afghanistan and Rwanda that are promoting parity in the workforce and land rights.

Question 3: What social, political, and economic shifts are needed for gender parity for minorities, those of different socioeconomic backgrounds, and youth?

Regarding shifts in gender parity for these populations, the consensus was that we must challenge harmful stereotypes and rigid gender norms to open doors to participation. Respondents pointed out that young women need to access family planning so that they could have a chance to stay in school and have the same opportunities as men. Finally, participants emphasized that gender parity is not solely a women’s issue, and that men’s greater involvement is a much-needed step for an entire community to grow.

The journey to gender parity is far from over. Gender specialists from around the world underline the need to continue fighting for women’s equality, but they also highlight the improvements that have been made and the impact that the global development community has had in ensuring this progress.

Amelda Zotter is a manager and JoAnna Lipari is an associate in Chemonics' Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Practice.

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