Feminism is a global issue, and so is solidarity


06 March 2015


By Helen Pankhurst, Senior Advisor at CARE International UK

In 2015, International Women's Day falls 60 days before women can vote in the British General Election. Women have had 18 opportunities to do so since we were granted equal voting rights as men in 1928, and in a sense, we have come of age.

We carry out our right to vote in the context of a far from perfect democracy, with one scandal or another hitting the news, and many of the electorate feeling that their vote won't make a difference - because of the voting system; because in a much more complicated world than of old party, affiliation is looser; and because the gulf between candidates, their parties and the electorate is seemingly wider than ever before.

Yet in my opinion, cynicism and apathy is a citizen's lazy abdication of responsibility. As women, we now have the power to influence the outcome of the election, and a responsibility for it. We need to translate equal rights to vote into equal representation. Without this, policies are skewed in the interests and the image of those that govern - it is government of the few, by the few, for the few.

Beyond the struggle for political voice and representation, there are many other single issue or more all-encompassing women's rights related changes being fought for, and sometimes won, both here and abroad.

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We can rejoice that millions of women and girls can live lives to the full, taking advantage of opportunities and possibilities that were unthinkable a century ago. The world, for some, is a beautiful place. However, this is not the case for far too many, whose lives are still defined and confined by absolute poverty and a gendered vulnerability and drudgery. In the year that was supposed to herald achievements against the millennium development goals, the record from a women's rights perspective is very patchy and we must be concerned about the rocky path that still lies ahead.

On Sunday March the 8th, together with my daughter and many other feminists, female and male, I will be marching in central London. We will be honouring the courage and colour of the suffragette campaign led by the Pankhurst family over a century ago and, I hope, encouraging women to use their hard-won vote to ensure the next parliament has a stronger feminist stamp.

But that's not all. Increasingly, it is the actions and voices of citizens outside parliament, and the way that these work in synergy with government that can make change happen.

The International Women's Day work organised by CARE International is therefore also the launch of its annual Walk In Her Shoes Campaign, to raise public awareness and to take action against one example of ongoing gendered shackles blighting women in many of the poorest countries of the world - namely water collection. We will also be joined by activists involved in championing a range of other local and international campaigns.

Feminism is a global issue, and our solidarity does not end at the shores of our own country. Compared to the situation in my great grandmother's day, progress in technology has given us the power to access social and mainstream media with ease. The result is a world that is more interconnected and interdependent than ever; one where individual voices and actions in one part of the world can and needs be amplified, to make the world a more beautiful place for all.

We are coming together to celebrate, to look back at the road travelled so far, to recharge our batteries and galvanize for the road ahead. We do so in the time honoured tradition of a march, walking shoulder to shoulder, as a visible manifestation of a global conscience. Do come and join us.

This article first appeared on Huffington Post UK on 03/03/2015

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