OP-ED

International Women’s Day: for What?

National Yemen

Asma Al-Mohattwari

Asma Al-Mohattwari

On March 8, people around the world celebrated International Women’s Day. They celebrated the social, political and economic achievements and development of women around the world.

But the real question to be asked: do women really need such day to be honored?

Women don’t need such gimmicks and initiatives to celebrate themselves, and they don’t need to be patronizingly told that they are remembered for one day out of 365 days in a year.

Everyone wants to celebrate the progress of women. What progress are you talking about? There are achievements, but they can be counted on our fingers. They majority of women are still struggling for basic rights in life.

I think women who have achieved significant progress don’t represent all women, because many are still suffering from so much, including making decisions regarding work and careers; sure, educated and privileged women may have a lot to celebrate in that regard, but I wouldn’t say the majority or even most women can be counted in that group.  There is also illiteracy, early marriages, harassment, domestic violence and other issues that have largely become gender-based.

After the Arab Spring, we believed that the plight of women would improve, but its only gotten worse. In Morocco, for example, the number of women in the ruling government party, the Justice and Development party, has declined to one female minister. There were seven women in the party previously. While in Egypt women still suffer from violence and inequality, including daily exposure to various types of sexual violence and assault, include rape, in the streets.

Women still face exclusion and violence in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Syria.

In Yemen, we are so proud of our three female ministers, as we should be. But is that the highest level of office women can achieve? Is that the only job women aspire to? For every woman minister, how many male ministers do we have?

 Yemeni women are looking for something more substantial, more important. More than 65 percent of Yemeni women suffer from illiteracy; though there are many organizations committed to tackling the issue, we’ve seen little improvement outside of the major cities. Many women who’ve been sexually assaulted or raped must keep quiet about their silent hell because our society shames these women into believing that they are somehow at fault, because of some worthless concept of ‘honor.’ The only people punished for rape in Yemen are victims, typically women.

How can we celebrate International Women’s Day when women are still suffering from human indignity? We must fight, win and then celebrate.

With all due respect to women around the world who celebrated International Women’s Day, I no longer have enthusiasm for global women’s events because I’ve found that it’s just a nice day for the media to take pictures, for people to feel like they’re doing something one day out of the year, and that it doesn’t have any meaning for the vast majority of Yemen’s poor women, who live much the same way they have for years, if not worse.

We shouldn’t allow the government to gloat over a false sense of accomplishment, there’s real work to be done.

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