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#pressforprogress on International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day! This year’s theme of #PressForProgress highlights the amount of work still to be done to achieve gender equity. I believe tackling harmful stereotypes and discriminatory social norms is particularly important for achieving progress. These norms dictate how girls and women should act, dress, and look, how loud their voices should be, what ambitions they should have, and what subjects they should study. Far too often this key aspect of achieving gender equity is forgotten as we focus on the more tangible issues of education, health and the pay gap. I do not mean to undermine the work being done in these areas but to make progress all work must be grounded in an understanding of these damaging, deeply held beliefs which are often held up as normal.

Ending damaging social norms is a process which begins with empowering girls and young women by investing in formal and non-formal education, providing them with an outlet to form opinions, and giving them the confidence to express these opinions. It is also vital that outlets are provided to boys and young men to develop healthy attitudes towards women and make them aware of the inherent inequality that exists in our societies.

International Women’s Day is so important because it shines a light on the issues women face every day that are too often ignored. It signifies to girls that there are thousands of people working to ensure they have a more equal future. Studies have consistently found that girls need role models to emulate and International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight women’s achievements in non-traditional spheres which often get little recognition.

Having young women attend CSW is vital because it ensures our concerns are recognised in the policy making process. By speaking out on issues that are priorities for girls and young women such as ending gender-based violence, ensuring access to education, and the provision of leadership opportunities, we can ensure that girls’ voices are heard.