By Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Law and Policy
One hundred years ago, more than a million people marched in streets across Europe on the first International Women’s Day, calling for an end to discrimination and for women to have the same rights as men to work, vote and shape the future of their countries.
One hundred years on, the reality is that women are still much more likely to be poor. They are more likely to be illiterate. They earn only 10 per cent of the world’s income but do two thirds of the world’s work. They produce up to 80 per cent of the food in developing countries but own only one per cent of the land.
In many countries, they are still told what they can do, even what they can wear. Women in Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Iran face harassment if they don’t observe conservative religious dress codes. Muslim women in Belgium, France and some parts of Spain may soon break the law there if they do.
Women campaigning for change are often met with derision, abuse or worse. In places like Russia, the Philippines, Mexico and Nepal, leading activists have recently been murdered for speaking out. In China, Bangladesh, India, Zimbabwe and many other countries, they are routinely detained and tortured.