From the perspective of a Nuru farmer in Kenya, it may seem like International Women’s Day has nothing to do with her. In rural areas, limited economy, poor infrastructure and low education levels contribute to communities having limited or no access to social media to follow @WomensDay or #IWD2016. Despite the swell of online conversation, she is likely unaware that thousands across the international development community are pressing to overcome complex challenges and discover solutions that will secure a brighter future for women across the globe.
When announcing the Gates Foundation commitment to gender equality at the UN, Melinda Gates pointed out that,
“Around the world, women are disproportionately at risk of—and affected by—poverty, ill health, and other challenges. However, when they are equipped with the right tools and opportunities, they can help ensure a better life for their families, communities and nations.”
She also observed that many gains have been made in the last 20 years, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that women are able to thrive.
This year’s UN International Women’s Day theme is a call to action supporting: Planet 50-50 by 2013: Step It Up for Gender Equality. So far, 91 countries have made commitments to create a world with equal opportunities and rights across genders, giving specific actions they will take to close the gender gap.
The national Step It Up commitment in Kenya includes many elements that overlap with the issues my colleagues and I are addressing with Nuru Kenya farmers: ensuring economic empowerment, women’s effective participation in leadership and decision making, access to quality education and attention to maternal and child health. Through this commitment, the Kenyan government has committed to enforce, monitor and fund the policies and legislation in place whose goals supports gender equality. As governments, NGOs, businesses, families and individuals work together toward these goals, we all will need to do more than talk about gender equality. We will need to take action.
For our part, Nuru Kenya will take action daily in delivering high quality services to our farmers and will continue working to ensure that women and men are able to make meaningful choices as they look to the future.
Despite the importance of equality and rights for all genders in fighting poverty, International Women’s Day will pass without notice for many of the Nuru farmers in Kenya and for many of our friends in the USA this year. March 8th will be just another day of getting things done. Today, as Americans, let’s take a minute to stop and take notice.
Even though you and I are not governing a nation, we can still make a commitment today to work within our sphere of influence to close the gender gap in several ways:
- have a conversation about global gender equality and rights with a friend,
- talk to your sister, daughter, niece or cousin about what obstacles she is working to overcome to reach her goal and ways to overcome them,
- notice your own personal biases and commit to questioning your norms,
- volunteer with an organization locally that supports girls and women,
- and in your own way join us in committing to take action to promote gender equality.
International Women’s Day is quite relevant not only the women, but also to the men, boys, and girls in Nuru farmer family households, all of whom are working hard to move out of extreme poverty into a world of meaningful choices.