The 21st century has witnessed significant changes in society and attitudes about women’s rights and equality. From having no voting rights and substantial pay differences, women have progressed by leaps and bounds in the new millennium. Women are now occupying seats in the boardroom; there are now increasing numbers of leaders of MNCs and countries who are women. With these impressive strides in female visibility, one would be forgiven for thinking that women are now equal to their male counterparts.
Nevertheless, despite these noteworthy strides in women's rights, women are still not equally represented in business and politics. Around the world, many still struggle with basic needs such as health and education. Violence against women is also more prevalent than males. Toward the end of 2011, increased attention was briefly focused on the continued lack of women in the boardroom and senior management, as well as their potential as a key untapped resource for economies which are facing demographical challenges or have reached stagnation.
Despite this, we acknowledge that women’s rights have improved by leaps and bounds. Women can now work and have a family and can vote. This year on March 8, as we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), let us remember the struggles faced and how they were overcome by women and feminists that campaigned for better rights and have created a better tomorrow for the women of today. Thus, this year’s theme, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” plays on this sentiment, and further underscores a fundamental aspect of sustainability: ensuring that the world we are impacting right now will be good enough, and hold enough, for future generations.
Apart from all these accolades, there has also been concrete action taken by the UN to end discrimination against women. For example, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines what discrimination is and what governments should do to end such discrimination. CEDAW was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979.
CEDAW provides the basis for ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life - including the right to vote and to stand for election - as well as education, health and employment. Countries that sign into CEDAW are legally bound to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Singapore has signed this convention as well and is committed to safeguarding the rights of women. In addition to that, The Women’s Charter is an act of the Singaporean Parliament that is designed to improve and protect the rights of females in Singapore and to guarantee greater legal equality for women that is legally sanctioned. Furthermore, there has been talk that the Singapore government is considering penalizing marital rape.
On this day, as we celebrate IWD and all the significant progress in women rights that comes with it, let us not forget that elsewhere in the world, other women do not have the legal and social rights that we do. Let us play a part in changing that. -- Equality for all.