On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2018, celebrated on the 8th of March, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim reiterated the importance of empowering and giving a voice to women worldwide so as to achieve gender equality. “This year, the International Women’s Day is celebrated against the backdrop of an unprecedented mobilization for women’s rights, equality and justice” stated Dr Al Qassim. From the private sector, to the film and art industry and the political scene, women worldwide have been joining their voices, coming together to denounce discrimination, violence, sexual harassment and abuse. In this context, according to UN Women, the theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is “Time is now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.
Around the world, companies, public institutions, and also the United Nations, are taking stock of their progress and of the remaining challenges with regard to gender equality. Today, for the first time in history, the UN has achieved gender parity at senior level, with 23 women and 21 men forming the current senior leadership in the world body. “At the behest of women movements bourgeoning worldwide, from metropoles to rural settings, change is happening. Women are empowering themselves,” stated Dr. Al Qassim.
The Chair of the Geneva Centre noted that, however successful women’s movements such as the Women’s March, #MeToo or #TimesUp had been in raising awareness on gender bias, a lot of work remained to be done in order to achieve parity. He recalled that the Gender Gap Report issued by the World Economic Forum in November 2017 warned that at the current pace, it would take 217 years to completely close the gender gap in the economic field, notably as regards the wage gap and the blatant absence of women from leadership and senior positions. Across all regions, women are more likely to live in extreme poverty than men. Less than 20 % of landholders worldwide are women, and while the global pay gap between men and women is 23 %, in rural areas it can be as high as 40 %, according to UN Women.
These numbers are, “alarming and unacceptable: while women remain relegated to the outskirts of power and leadership, be it in the public sphere or in the private sector, the global economy is constantly losing from their marginalization and their discrimination” said Dr Al Qassim. He recalled that, according to research by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), if women were to participate in the economy at the same rate as men, it could add up to $28 trillion, or 26% of incremental global GDP into the world economy by 2025.
Dr. Al Qassim noted that International Women’s Day “should represent a stepping stone for transforming momentum into action, and for working together to empower women worldwide, to improve their livelihoods and to offer them equal opportunities for a better future. Gender parity cannot happen overnight, but if we join forces and work together across cultures, we can move forward together towards equality at a faster pace. As echoed in this year’s International Women’s Day theme – the time is now.”