The first Women’s Day was in 1909 in the US, when February 28 was designated to remember the garment workers’ strike of the previous year where women protested their working conditions. In the century since then it has become a global event calling for equal rights in all aspects of life and work; in some countries it’s a day of protest, in others a celebration.
To mark this year’s International Women’s Day we asked people of all ages from around the world, what does gender equality mean to you?
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For me gender equality means equal conditions and treatment, for children to have the same opportunities and the same expectations. Families and classrooms are where the first barriers appear and we must work to eradicate them.
It also means being treated with respect in our workspaces and by family and friends, that our opinions are listened to and taken into account. We must fight against the under-estimation and under-valuing of our efforts.
I think gender equality means recognising our differences, recognising the roles of women in society and making sure our rights and freedoms are guaranteed.
Claudia, 26, statistician, Chile
For me it means equal access to power, decision-making positions and opportunities. Women should also be empowered to have complete control over their own lives.
Lina, 22, student, Sudan
For me, it means a perfect equity in the evaluation, treatment and recognition of the two genders. There will be “equality” when there won’t be any value-judgement and a real awareness that the two genders are interdependent. The two genders are complementary and it’s very difficult to do without the other. Basically, there will equality when there won’t be any questioning of equality anymore, because the concept will be void.
Dihya, 33 sales manager, France
It’s the breaking down of unconscious bias.
Maia, 36, HR and operations manager, UK
Opportunity to compete with men at an intellectual and professional level, receiving the same treatment, both financial and workwise.
Sandra, 45, teacher, Puerto Rico
All humans should be treated with equal respect and have the same rights and opportunities. We as individuals are precious and valuable. Colour, race and gender don’t matter. However in the 21st century women still struggle, especially in male-dominated fields, although women’s rights and quality of life are way better now than in the 1960s. Society implicitly requires traditional gender roles. We live only once, we deserve to achieve what we want.
Sinae, sound engineer, South Korea
True gender equality can only be achieved when the social construct that is gender is deconstructed.
Jeanna, 32, midwife, USA
Gender equality means for me to not have to think about it in any situation in society. For instance at work, in any educational sector, in terms of health or political views. Equality means being equal, regardless of what you think or do, or how you look like.
Anon, writer and journalist, Germany
To me, gender equality means we are all treated the same, paid the same and respected the same. No person is any less worthy because of their gender.
Linda, credit and collection supervisor, USA
Respect for workers because of their knowledge and not their gender.
Jessica, 30, waitress, Puerto Rico
Equal pay, equal social recognition. I have to say being a woman and having had children I feel incredibly discriminated against, by men and women. I truly believe that the only way to achieve gender equality is to penalise by law – in Iceland they’ve made it illegal to pay women less than men for the same jobs.
Redina, 37, sales associate, France
Gender equality to me means being able to be yourself and do what you want whether it be professionally or personally, without judgement, where everyone is treated fairly and respectfully regardless of gender. I believe that stereotypes and pre-conceived expectations should cease to exist, and everyone should have equal rights, opportunities and access to resources. Doing so would empower all of us – men and women – to leave this world a better place than how we found it, for our children, grand-children and all future generations to come.
Vivan, 53, credit specialist, USA
Belkacem: Professionally speaking, equal right to education and access to education, equal opportunity in employment and access, equal salary for the same tasks or skills, equal consideration in decision-making. Janet: On a personal basis, equal partaking in children’s education, in decision-making and in household chores.
Belkacem and Janet, 71 and 70, retired, France
It means equal attention, listening and consideration.
Nawel, 33, IT consultant, UAE
To me equality between men and women is crucial in order to obtain peace to lead to a better world.
First we managed to get far technologically while women had their rights limited all around the world. I think if they had the same rights as men, we would have cured more diseases and discovered more technologies. In addition I think if we had more women working in politics maybe we would have less conflicts or wars. Because women are kinder and wiser in my opinion. That is why we need more educated women. We need them in order to achieve peace and progress for humankind. That is why equality between men and women in education and civil rights must be respected at all costs.
Gabriel, 32, mechanical engineer, France
Gender equality is achieved when girls and boys, women and men are treated equally and have equal access to opportunities, resources and the protection of their rights in society.
Carolyn, founder and creative director, Nigeria
Gender equality isn’t so much a legislative issue as a question that society asks itself about how we put respect and progressive values into action. It suggests changes that we need to make both collectively and as individuals to address our societal failings.
But it also means excitement – right now, there is possibility for real, lasting gains across the world, but also the possibility of already hard-fought-for gains being rolled back or even reversed (eg Kavanaugh’s bias toward overturning Roe V Wade in US).
So as well as ensuring that women get equality of opportunity and representation, it’s also a prism through which to view our social evolution, or lack thereof. It’s something I follow as a man, to learn *in practical terms*, how to be a better person.
It’s not a finished product, or a campaign, or a hashtag. It’s part of a civil rights narrative which has moved at a glacial speed, both forward and back, and it’s something we all owe ourselves and future generations to engage with, no matter our gender, age, or existing level of wokeness.
Eddy, 44, journalist, UK
Gender equality gives our society the opportunity to grow.
Yddana, 49, sound engineer, Puerto Rico
The first things that come to my mind are work and pay, if a man and a woman both apply for the same role who will have a better chance? Would they get paid an equal amount of money for the same job and the same hours? Sadly I think men probably have the advantage.
There are other aspects – you can look at it from the point of view of women being conditioned to stay at home, look after the children and do the cleaning, while men go out to work, then come home and sit in front of the television. Some women also look after the money, and get part time or full time work while still looking after the house.
It’s a bit different these days, but I think women are still expected to take care of the household. There should be equal treatment in the home and in the workplace.
Pirasteh, 71, photographer, UK
For me gender equality has always been watching my dad sweeping, laying the table and cooking on some days, and seeing my mum driving to work, telling us anecdotes on her way back, and discussing her opinions on any subject. Gender equality is simply that we are all equal, with the same rights and obligations, that my 10-year-old female students can achieve everything they want in the future, that I am co-responsible as a father of all the aspects of my son’s education, from bottle feeding to changing his nappy and taking him for a walk. It’s sharing life in a fair way, without barriers, difficulties or impediments for the simple fact of being men or women.
David, 43, primary school teacher, Spain
In terms of economic equality it means equal pay for equal jobs. In a broader sense I think whatever is acceptable for men should be acceptable for women too and vice versa.
Inge, publicist, Germany
Gender equality means…
that I am given the same opportunities
that I do not have to be a mother or wife to be considered successful
that I do not have to second guess if I am smart enough to be become a doctor
and countless other statements that I have contemplated during childhood and my adult life.
Jessica, 26, student, USA
What does gender equality mean to you?
Use the comments section to share your thoughts.