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Celebrating International Women's Day: Reflecting on Progress and Continuing the Fight

As we celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, 2024, it's essential to reflect on the journey of women's rights and the ongoing struggle for equality. As Gloria Steinem aptly put it, "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."

One significant milestone in this journey occurred on September 19, 1893, when Aotearoa became the first self-governing nation in the world where women won the right to vote. Wāhine Māori were at the forefront of the suffragist movement, highlighting the importance of diverse voices in the fight for equality.

However, despite progress, discrimination persists based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics. Lesbian, bisexual, trans, and intersex women and gender non-conforming individuals face violence, exclusion, harassment, and discrimination in many parts of the world. International Women's Day serves as a reminder of the need to address these injustices and ensure that all women can live free from fear and discrimination.

At the heart of the struggle for women's rights lies feminism, the belief that women are entitled to political, economic, and social equality. Frida Kahlo's (one of my personal favs!!!!!) words resonate deeply: "I want freedom for the full expression of my personality." Women should not be constrained by societal norms or expectations but should have the freedom to be their authentic selves.

Fundamental human rights, including the right to live free from violence and discrimination, access education, own property, vote, and earn equal wages, must be upheld for all individuals regardless of gender. The fight for women's suffrage in the 19th and early 20th centuries laid the groundwork for these rights, leading to significant advancements such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979).

The United Nations recognizes that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are not only moral imperatives but also crucial for sustainable development, economic growth, peace, and security. Research consistently demonstrates that societies thrive when women's rights are upheld and taken seriously.

As we commemorate International Women's Day, let us honor the achievements of those who came before us and recommit ourselves to the ongoing fight for gender equality. Together, through collective efforts and solidarity, we can create a world where all women are treated with dignity, respect, and equality.

Happy International Women's Day!

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