World Women’s Day: A call to action for accelerating gender parity

International Women’s Day is observed every year on March 8 highlighting the achievements and problems faced by women. However, this year's women's day is totally different keeping in view the COVID-19 pandemic. 
As nations initiate recovery plans to get out of the pandemic mode, it high time to end the marginalisation and exclusion of women and girls. And for this purpose, women must be given opportunities and responsibilities to play a proactive role in shaping the important decisions as countries prepare recovery responses from the coronavirus pandemic.
Women from every corner of the globe come together on March 8, which is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Women stand at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the centrality of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry. Nearly 60 per cent of women around the world work in the informal economy, earning less, saving less, and at greater risk of falling into poverty. Women earn 23% less than men globally. Women occupy only 24% of parliamentary seats worldwide.  And 1 in 3 have experienced physical or sexual violence and 200 M of girls-women have suffered genital mutilation.
In India, women have breached every ceiling, as lawyers, corporate heads, scientists, pilots, you name it they are there. But in the Lok Sabha, they are just over 14%, and 2019 showed an improvement of 3%, mainly because of the impressive strike rate (over 70%) of the women who fought on the BJP ticket.
Their winnability — an argument made against giving women tickets — was more than that of male candidates.  In India, women who helm political parties or represent people in Parliament and Assemblies are not large in numbers, but some have been making waves. Two women hogged the headlines last week — Mamata Banerjee and Sasikala. The feisty Mamata accepted the BJP’s challenge to contest only from one constituency — Nandigram — where she will face her one-time lieutenant, Suvendu Adhikari, who helped her win the battle of Nandigram which catapulted her to power in 2011. But he has now joined the BJP.
The world’s scenario is not different, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. The world has made unprecedented advances, but no country has achieved gender equality. Fifty years ago, we landed on the moon; in the last decade, we discovered new human ancestors and photographed a black hole for the first time. In the meantime, legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men. Less than 25 per cent of parliamentarians were women, as of 2019. One in three women experiences gender-based violence, still.
This day celebrates the cultural, political, economic and social achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action to achieve gender parity. The IWD is also significant in a way it spurs us to make people aware of women's rights, gender equality, safety and prevention of any kind of harassment. The day also helps us to reflect on the extraordinary roles played by women in almost every walk of life and celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women.  Though countries across the world have made great advancements, gender equality remains an unfulfilled dream.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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