International Women’s Day

EVENT: International Women’s Day

AUTHOR: Sir Peter Fahy

Today is International Women’s Day, a day to raise awareness about the inequality women and girls across the world face. The day itself is important, but long term action to challenge entrenched attitudes is essential. Every day Retrak work with women and girls in Africa and South America to get children off the streets and support carers to be better able to look after their children.

In too many countries in the world, women who challenge entrenched attitudes, seek an education and want to have a career rather than being tied to the home end up isolated, abused and at worst killed.

When women are held back than the aspirations of their children are held back. When women are held back girls are taken out of education at an early age with few options but early marriage or domestic slavery. Sadly, we are seeing more girls than ever before fleeing these situations and finding they have nowhere to go but the street.

All children who live and work on the streets lack everyday necessities – they have no safe shelter, access to education and healthcare, or adequate nutrition – but girls are especially vulnerable. In Uganda, 77% of girls who live on Kampala’s streets have been forced into modern slavery and 73% have experienced some form of sexual abuse or unwanted pregnancy.

Women are key to resolving so many of the development issues we face. I have seen entire communities transformed by simple initiatives like Self Help Groups, which allow women to set up a business, provide the funds to keep their children in school and to be an equal part in the family. The women who take part feel that they are better role models for their children and parenting is improved as a result. These programmes prevent children ending up living on the streets by supporting their families and communities.

International Women’s Day is not designed to provide women with preferential rights nor is it about taking the rights of men. Challenging and fighting inequality benefits both men and women.  When you look at the world, realizing the hidden and lost potential of so many women has to be one of the key routes to progress.