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A slow road to equality

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By the way... by REEM ANTOON


Women don’t realise how powerful they are

 – American actress and producer Judith Light.

Earlier in the week, International Women’s Day marked the plight and achievements of women for more than a century.

Themed this year around “Planet 50-50 by 2030”, the UN-backed event celebrated women’s rights in more than 40 countries.

Worldwide, women continue to contribute to social, economic, cultural and political achievement. But progress towards gender affinity is slow.

In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender unity. A year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap would not close entirely until 2133.

An estimated 120 million girls and women under the age of 20 have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts – around 10 per cent.

More than a third of women worldwide have also experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, with this being most common between a woman’s teenage years and menopause.

Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of a billion more women are in the global workforce today than a decade ago, but they are only earning what men did in 2006, according to the World Economic Forum. 

And one in 10 married women is not consulted by their husbands on how their own cash earnings will be spent.

In Afghanistan, performance artist Kubra Khademi made a powerful statement about women’s bodies in public spaces last year when she walked through the streets wearing metal body armour specially designed to emphasise her breasts, crotch and bottom. 

The performance, designed to highlight the discomfort caused by men groping and harassing women in the street, drew leers, stones and death threats – perfectly proving the artist’s point.

Gender equality remains a hot topic and something that women continue to strive for at every level. Emirati author Mona Matar urged families not to force their daughters to marry a man of the same nationality and to allow them the freedom to choose.

She said too often some families concentrated on nationality, rather than their daughter finding a good man who would be suited to them.

“I find it interesting that the majority of families highlight the pitfalls of marrying foreigners, while we should make sure that the proposed man is of good manners and committed to his religion. In Islam, choosing your life partner is a personal freedom,” says Ms Matar.

“Choosing a degree and choosing a spouse are long-term commitments and both should be taken carefully. In the past, young women have been told to just pick something, anything, and it will pay off,” she says.

Throughout history, women have fought courageously and tirelessly to assert themselves as individuals and experts in their field, something most men might have taken for granted. “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform,” says author Diane Mariechild.

Yes, it is pretty amazing being a woman. We have all the essentials for life within us.

We are a very nurturing force. We not only have the power to create life, but to incubate it and deliver it to the world. 

And as a woman myself, and mother of two girls, I have to say it is an amazing experience and one that I will want my daughters to create consciously rather than let others decide what sort of life they would have. 

I always want them to know that they have the power within them to choose who they want to be and how they want to lead that life. 

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