Today on the 8th of March we are once again celebrating International Women’s Day. It is a time of the year when we reflect on the situation of women in the world and the significance of the Feminine. In New Zealand women have enjoyed freedom and rights since 1893. That year New Zealand, as the first country in the world, gave women the right to vote after an enormous struggle by suffragists, led by Kate Sheppard - who now adorns our $10 notes. This was a very important event for the emancipation of women, as it became an inspiration to suffragists worldwide. During the 124 years that has followed New Zealand has seen the rights of women increase, develop and strengthen. The most powerful post in the country, the Prime minister, has been held by two women – an unthinkable accomplishment only a few decades ago. In the World Economic Forum’s newly released Global Gender Gap Report New Zealand comes in at 10th place out of 145 countries.
We have come a long way in New Zealand but in too many parts of the world our sisters are still fighting for fundamental rights – such as the right to decide over their own bodies. However, the good news is that women from many different cultures, despite violent attempts to crush them from a patriarchy under threat, women are speaking up with voices louder than ever, demanding equal rights and freedom. Worldwide women are recognizing their strength, wisdom, unique gifts and talents and also their birthright to a dignified life.
We often hear about the awakening of the female and perhaps that is what we’re seeing now. Never have so many women entered fields that were traditionally male dominated and never have so many women gained a higher education. Women can do anything given the chance. Many scholars have said for decades that the world was once matrifocal. Most civilizations from Japan to Old Europe to the near East and the Indus Valley had an almost exclusively feminine iconography up until a certain point in time, demonstrating the importance of the Feminine and the Earth Mother. And only weeks ago DNA tests revealed that the ancient Chaco society that lived in New Mexico over a thousand years ago was matrilineal. Through archeology - and now DNA tests - fragments of highly advanced societies emerge where the feminine image was vastly preponderant - as well as a striking absence of signs of warfare and weapon. Why is this important? If women are to be co-creators of a new world it is important to widen the understanding of what women are capable of and their role in the universe. The theory that there once existed peaceful societies on earth without patriarchy and oppression towards women - which we have grown so disturbingly accustomed to - shows us that there is another way – we know it deep in our core. The way we live today is not an expression of human nature and to know that frees our minds from its bindings – we can start envisioning another better world, where the full power of the Feminine is alive and potent.
There are a few recent improvements for the situation of women worldwide that we can reflect on today:
Algeria: Violence against women has been made a punishable criminal offense in more parts of the world. A new law in Algeria has made sexual harassment and violence against women a criminal offense. In Pakistan it is no longer possible to obtain impunity for men who have honour-killed their female relatives. The loophole in the law that previously allowed the families to pardon the killer is now gone. China has for the first time legislated against domestic violence. A new law in Germany defines rape as rape even if the victim does not make violent resistance. And El Salvador set up a court which deals only with cases of violence against women.
Japan: A new law in Japan forces all businesses with more that 300 employees to employ more women and facilitates for women to have longer careers in order to increase gender equality in the workplace and subsequently in society as a whole.
India: has seen some improvements in the empowerment of women in areas such as female land ownership, increase in the number of bank accounts owned by women, a decline in domestic violence and an increase in women participating in household decisions.
Africa: Rwanda, had the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide. Women there have won 63.8 % of seats in the lower house.
South America: In Bolivia, the number of female parliamentarians outnumbers the male ones at 53.1 %.