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Opinion

International Women’s Day, 2024
Spare Us the Token Flowers: International Women’s Day is a Call to Action

The following opinion piece is part of series to mark International Women’s Day, March 8.

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Mar 6 2024 (IPS) - Marking International Women’s Day as a mere day of celebration is to strip it of its true meaning, a stab in the back of the generations of feminists who fought to make it a cornerstone for gender justice.

This day is a call to action, a collective demand for substantive change. It must insist on our deepest reflection about how the patriarchy creeps into every aspect of our lives, including into the policies that govern our macroeconomics.

Beyond the flowers and tokenism of celebrating International Women’s Day lies a stark reality, which is the persistent struggle that women face within the confines of a neoliberal economic system. Recent statistics paint a grim picture of the dwindling financial flows that aim to advance gender justice.

According to the latest data, rich governments allocate only 4% of their Official Development Assistance to programs that have “gender equality” centered as their principle objective, with less and less of those funds going directly to the local feminist movements at the forefront of the fight towards gender justice.

There is a continuing alarming trend of governments privatizing public services and cutting away social protection. Along with their dwindling support for feminist and women’s rights organizations, this poses a direct threat to the lives and well-being of women, girls, and non-binary individuals.

The capitalist system is perfectly geared to funnel all the money into men’s pockets. Globally, men own $105 trillion more wealth than women. This is equivalent to four times the size of the entire US economy. The regional differences also showcase how women from the majority world are the most impacted under these exploitative neoliberal systems.

Women make up 75% of the global workforce, particularly in essential health care services, yet it would take 1,200 years for a female worker in the health and social sector to earn what a CEO in the biggest Fortune 100 companies earns on average in one year.

Meanwhile, of course, the sheer amount of unpaid care work that falls upon women’s shoulders hinder their engagement in paid work, and education, among many other spheres. Compared to men, who spend on average around 90 minutes a day on unpaid care work, women spend three times that, on average 4.5 hours.

Our governments around the world urgently need to build a feminist economy and invest in national care systems to address the disproportionate responsibility for care work done by women and girls and ensure access to public services and living wages for carers.

The system we live under is engineered by colonialism, run by capitalism, and supported by the patriarchy. And when those three actors conspire together, it is women in all their diversities, especially women of color who pay the highest prices.

On this International Women’s Day, we demand concrete actions to dismantle and reconfigure the economic structures that are perpetuating gender-based inequalities. It is time to pivot our advocacy towards three crucial asks that can drive substantive change.

First and foremost, international financing institutions and governments must shift power to centre feminist movements and promote the advancement of gender justice. We can do that by decolonizing aid and unconditionally supporting local grassroots feminist and queer movements.

Their voices, often marginalized, deserve amplified recognition and unwavering backing. Funding for these movements needs to be flexible and sustainable to ensure their continued leadership.

Secondly, we need a gender-transformative approach to how we fund the crucial areas of social protection and public services. These are incredibly important in the struggle for women’s equality.

The implementation of progressive taxation, including a substantial wealth tax, is key to funding universal public services that cater specifically to the needs of women, girls, and gender non-binary individuals. This would be a game-changer.

Lastly, we need to guarantee living wages and protection across all sectors, particularly in the care economy. This too is a non-negotiable. This entails introducing fair taxes, including wealth taxes on those who made fortunes on the backs of the rest of us, and legislate them in favor of fair compensation for care work, prioritizing the well-being of communities within and beyond professional spheres.

This International Women’s Day, let us rally for these essential shifts, advocating not only for a day of celebration but one of tangible and equitable progress, too.

Dana Abed is Campaign Strategist for Gender Rights and Justice at Oxfam International.

IPS UN Bureau

 


  
 
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