UN message to women on International Women’s Day: ‘Time is now’

Saeed Shabazz | 3/15/2018, 2:38 p.m.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, during his remarks on International Women’s Day, celebrated March 8, said, “We are at a ...
United Nations General Assembly hall

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, during his remarks on International Women’s Day, celebrated March 8, said, “We are at a pivotal moment for women’s rights. For decades, women have been calling for the equality that is their right. And today, they are shaking the pillars of patriarchy. Around the world, women and girls are calling out the abusive behavior and discriminatory attitudes they face everywhere and all the time. They are insisting on lasting change.”

The secretary-general argued that there are “serious” obstacles as women fight against the status quo.

“More than a billion women lack legal protection against domestic sexual violence,” stated Guterres. “Over the next decade, millions more girls will undergo genital mutilation, and women’s representation in parliaments stands at less than one-quarter—and even lower in boardrooms.”

In regard to women of color, a Women’s Media Center report titled “The Status of Women of Color in the U. S. News Media 2018” states, “Women of color represent just 7.95 percent of U.S. print and newsroom staff, 12.6 percent of local TV news staff, and 6.2 percent pf local radio staff.” The report was produced in 2017.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women, explained that this years’ theme (“Time Is Now”) captures the life of the activist women whose passion and commitment have brought change over generations and won women’s rights.

“What we see today is a remarkable gathering of strength among women all over the world, demonstrating the power of speaking with one voice, as they call for opportunity and accountability, drawing momentum from grassroots networks and coalitions that stretch right up to government leadership,” she said.

Mlambo-Ngcuka added, “The culture of gender-based poverty, abuse and exploitation has to end with a new generation of equality that lasts.”

The Commission on the Status of Women stated, “Violence against women is a pandemic affecting all nations, even those that have made laudable progress in other areas. Worldwide, 35 percent of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.”

International Women’s Day is observed annually March 8. IWD first emerged from the activities of labor movements at the turn of the 20th century in North America and across Europe.

According to reports, millions of women gathered across the world to strike, protest and party to mark the annual day. Trains stopped in Spain as female workers went on the nation’s first “feminist” strike, newspapers dropped their prices for women in France and the IWD flag flew over the United Kingdom parliament.

In India, women marched in cities such as Delhi, Karachi and Kolkata. Women also took to the streets in Bangladesh, Belarus, Nepal, Pristina and Ankara, according to The Guardian.

The former Irish president, Mary McAleese, is quoted saying that the Catholic Church was an “empire of misogyny,” calling for women to be given leadership roles by the Vatican.

In Australia, in the outback town of Tennant Creek, indigenous Australian women and girls marched to call for an end to alcohol-fueled violence.

Hundreds of South Koreans, wearing black and holding #MeToo signs, rallied in Central Seoul. Observers say the movement there has gained traction since a female prosecutor spoke out against workplace mistreatment and sexual misconduct in January.

In the Philippines hundreds of activists in pink and purple shirts protested against President Rodrigo Duterte, who they claimed is among the world’s worst violators of women’s rights in Asia.

The U.N. chief stressed the need for transparency and accountability if women are to reach their full potential to lift up communities, societies and economies. “Stand with women, listen to them and learn from them,” Guterres urged.