Reflecting on Women’s History Month

Joshitha Senthil

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” -Audre Lorde, a feminist and civil rights activist.

In our increasingly progressive world today, the stance of women’s rights is still vigorously debated. Though there have been many advancements made towards equality, there is still so much more work to be done. 

The month of March is recognized as Women’s History Month to not only bring to light the accomplishments of remarkable women in the past, but also to shift our lens and expand our scope to acknowledge and address current problems being faced by women everywhere through a global, intersectional lens. While women have gained access to more rights in the 21st century, this month underscores the importance of continuing to bridge the inequalities that are in our current systems. 

The subgroups that are especially targeted by discrimination are women of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women in underprivileged communities and women in underdeveloped or war torn countries. 

In the US itself, women of color are subject to systemic racism and sexism in the workplace, for education, healthcare, and for opportunities in general. 42% of women in the United States alone say they have faced discrimination on the job because of their gender. 45% of establishments in Asia have refused to hire women because they might “disrupt the working environment” (Worldbank, 2) and the pay gap is still a pertinent issue. In 2022, women earn $0.82 for every dollar that men with the same title earn (US Dept of Labor.) It is because of factors like this that many women are being hindered from working, even with the proper education, credentials and qualifications.

Furthermore, many women around the world have even been deprived of an education. The UN has stated that women make up more than 2/3 of the world’s 796 million illiterate population. This is due to factors such as poverty, child marriage, gender-based violence, stigma and lack of sanitation. 

The UN has also affirmed that in underdeveloped and war-torn countries specifically, 45% of girls have not completed primary school and 61% of girls don’t continue to secondary school. It is imperative to educate girls due to the multitude of benefits that affect them individually as well as society as a whole. If every girl in Africa alone completed secondary school, the child marriage and maternal death rates would go down by 74%. Educated women will garner respect in their community and will be well-informed to protect themselves. 

In tandem with the individual benefits, educating women acts as a catalyst to ignite growth and development for their country as a whole. Working women will lift not only themselves, but also their family out of poverty, which will stabilize the economy. Even a mere 1% increase in education rates has proven to raise the GDP by 0.3% annually. 

Furthermore, the group of women that are discriminated against the most when receiving healthcare are members of the LGBTQ community. 1 in 4 people have reported facing bias and discriminatory behavior while seeking treatment and 80% of medical students expressed implicit bias against queer women and 50% expressed explicit bias. 

If there is homophobia and sexism even at the root of the situation, it will emanate to other places. If our future doctors are being trained while they hold impartiality against a certain group of people, they will struggle in fulfilling their duty and will be violating the Hippocratic Oath they swore to uphold. It needs to be ensured that we will have access to quality, accepting medical professionals from the very beginning so the future generations will be able to seek medical help without any fear. 

There is still so much work to be done to promote gender equality, and it is pivotal to solve these disparities not only for the wellbeing of those affected by it, but for the development of society as a whole. Our duty can be summed by the wise words of Ban Ki-Moon: “Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility.”