On the 8th of March every year, we celebrate International Women’s Day. Some might say, do we really need it? The answer is, yes, and the cause probably merits a lot more than a day. Let us tell you why.
It is important to set aside, at least a day, in a year which celebrates both historical and present circumstances and events which have unequivocally resulted in the progress of moving forward and that have impacted women’s lives for the better. But in a country like Malta- we feel like there is a lot more which needs to be done.
Let us get one thing straight- an international day celebrated in one country may not be a reflection of the circumstances in a counterpart country. As Kate Andrews brilliantly puts it, important calendar days like International Women’s Day could be used to target one’s time and attention to more serious and fundamental issues which women still face till this very day: domestic abuse, lack of access to essential and legal reproductive healthcare, workplace discrimination etc.
Now, while there are current issues which require much more attention as we speak, a general election could very well be an opportune time to question the candidates who ultimately need our blessing if they wish to represent us in Parliament. What makes one think, is how the parties will act when it comes to International Women’s Day, but more importantly what they will be doing for women’s rights and maintaining equality in the long run. Let us give a few examples.
A general election could very well be an opportune time to question the candidates who ultimately need our blessing if they wish to represent us in Parliament.
We should be able to go home safely. We are someone, living our lives, returning to our home, from doing something we enjoy. It should not have to result in ingrained behaviors and be compelled to text our friends and loved ones ‘Are you home safe?’, because deep down, we are compelled to be vigilant. Nor do we owe anyone our attention.
We want to live in a society where we can speak freely about our beliefs, especially those that concern us. We are not ‘mouthy’ because we speak on issues close to our hearts, we are as opinionated as anyone else who has a contribution to make.
A legislative bill is great, but unfortunately, it is not enough. We commend all those who in any way advocated for the Femicide Bill- but why are you only thinking about what comes after? Why can’t things which shape our future lives be included in the education syllabus- the basics of a healthy relationship, the signs when we stay or leave, or why consent is so important in a relationship? Mathematics and languages are important, but do our children really need to wait till University or when they enter their first romantic relationship to learn all this?
We need to curb economic violence. We are not precluding anyone from their choice to stay home with the children or go to work. Most of you might ask survivors why they did not leave an abusive environment in the first place. One of the reasons may be that, whoever they are involved or cohabitating with, has taken charge of everything- including means of transportation, finances, property- therefore, they have no control. Control taken from the vulnerable victim, is ultimately an act of violence. On that note, a greater effort on all forms of gender-based violence is also needed.
Control taken from the vulnerable victim, is ultimately an act of violence.
We wish to get a pay which is equal to that of our male counterparts. Although the Gender Pay Gap average in Malta is fairly better than the European Union average, surely, we can do better. Wouldn’t you agree that two people who do the same amount of work, dedicate the same amount of hours and skills to their work, should be paid the same amount?
We wish to speak openly about workplace harassment. We may think that everything is simply fine, but behind closed doors, workplace harassment is still a reality. Wouldn’t you agree that we deserve to discuss workplace harassment without feeling ashamed to be telling our truth?
We may not all agree on sexual and reproductive rights, but it is high time that we improve on our approach to this subject. On that note, do you believe it is right to send a woman to prison for an abortion for whatever the reason? When we see a frightened woman who may need help, the urge would be to help her, not prosecute her and endure more trauma. Who are we to judge and ridicule?
We love politics, it gives us something to keep working for and which fulfills us. But sadly, it is not just family, as some politicians, which some people tend to believe, hold us back from participating more actively in politics. It is society’s attitude towards hardworking and sincere potential candidates, how taking a position on an unorthodox issue comes out as having malicious intent, rather than just taking a different stance.
So there it is, dear politicians. We certainly trust you have bona fide intentions for your candidature and aspirations in becoming representatives in the House. However, posing for a photo or delivering baked goods and flowers is simply not enough, it actually never was. What we want is life-long reforms, which aim to improve the society we live in and for our children to grow up in a world which looks at their capabilities, achievements and vision, rather than their gender.
On that note, the progress we have made so far is also proof that women do not need anyone to hold the door for them, they are much capable of opening it and making an entrance themselves.
Our gender is not a determining factor of our ability to achieve and do whatever we want that makes us happy and fulfilled.