2014 marks the 103rd International Women’s Day. What began as a socialist political event in Europe is now celebrated world-wide, and endorsed by organisations as wide-ranging as the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Ukrainian feminist group, Femen. It remains as vital as ever to showcase women’s manifold social, political and economic achievements, but it is also crucial that the campaign for gender equality is loudly and energetically sustained.
Three recent examples underline the need for continuing vigilance against sexism and action for more egalitarian, more respectful gender relations both off- and online. An advertisement campaign entitled “The Autocomplete Truth”, recently run by UN Women, used actual Google searches to reveal widespread sexism and discrimination against women. It placed the search results over the mouths of women’s photographs, effectively silencing them, and makes for sobering viewing (on the web at http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2013/10/women-should-ads; on Twitter at #womenshould).
This week, the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency launched the most extensive survey yet undertaken on violence against women, which showed staggering numbers of women having experienced some form of violence right across the EU, including in those countries we consider to be most gender-equal.
At the same time, prominent women campaigners have recently revealed their shocking experiences of online bullying and abuse. Everyone should be able to use the web without being subjected to this type of thing.
Whatever the medium of communication, women’s voices must not be silenced. This message is one of the most important that International Women’s Day can convey. But International Women’s Day must also be a day when women, and men, celebrate the respectful, peaceful and progressive acts that are done to advance women’s and human rights. For advancing gender equality and celebrating the gains made so far, one day per year is not enough.
By Juliet Webster, Director, Gender and ICT Programme, IN3