It is too often forgotten that this day celebrates women’s rights and their fight to gain and maintain what is rightfully theirs. It is a day to commemorate the struggles, the battles, the losses and the victories, the lives lost and the lives freed. But beyond that, it is a day to sadly recognize that the path toward equal rights, toward freedom, toward peace has yet to be completed. This is not a celebration of achievements, as often described. This is a day where you can hear the screams, see the raised fists, the blood, the corpses of those who came before us and paved the way. This is a day to look back on our history and see the ever-present damage of patriarchy. This is a day to honor the memory and the sacrifices of our fallen sisters for us to be able to celebrate freely these “achievements”. As a woman I interviewed said: “The situation has completely changed [from what it used to be]. Now I can work, and as an independent woman, I’m happy to enjoy the day and celebrate. I feel like every day we should celebrate our improvements. But there’s still a lot to say and to do.” As I asked her what she would like to improve she answered: “We need equal pay, among other things. Mostly, I’m looking forward to when it will end, because we should not have to fight for our rights.” And indeed, I do hope in the future, this day will only be one of remembrance.
But that day has not yet come. That is why this year theme, according to UN Women, is “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. Again, I questioned her on the link between climate and gender equality, to which she responded: “Equality is responsible for the sustainability of climate, yes. You know, it starts in our home. And as Nepal is a country of agriculture too, if we give women the education, the knowledge, the means to work and improve their methods, then yes, it contributes to saving our environment.” Indeed, in recent years, studies have shown that the fight against climate change will not be successful without the fight for equality. The question is: can we establish an equilibrium if we take care of our world but not of the people in it ? We cannot, under the pretense of going step by step, consider our problems as individual ones that can be solved separately. So, when we fight for gender equality, and when we celebrate women’s international day, we also take steps forward to a sustainable environment for all.
In Nepal, the poverty is a significant factor as it highlights and increases gender inequality. Indeed, in the face of misery, women are once again at the bottom of the chain. It is a world-wide fact that in the poorest countries, opportunities for women to be educated do not equate those of men which are already low, and Nepal is no exception. It’s often that girls still have to take cooking and cleaning classes, while their male counterparts do not. This goes beyond double standards. It is a vicious circle, known as patriarchy, that keeps women under a larger-than-life glass ceiling for every job, every opportunity, every field, every action. As a result of a lack of education, and opportunity for women, marriage at an early age is still way too common in Nepal, as some see it as the only solution for girls to have a life.
And what a life...As we celebrate, rape cases in Nepal continue to rise (as reported by Nepal Police in 2021), and women’s right and freedom continue to decline. Each rape is a life shattered, and many more shaken. As long as one rapist walk free, equality can’t be achieved. What’s more, as long as rape is considered a normal occurrence, women won’t be able to be safe, to be seen, to be heard. As the feminist anthem Un violador en tu camino (A rapist on your path) condemns: “Impunity for the killer, it’s disappearance, it’s rape”. Rape, in Latin, means “to snatch”, and indeed when rape occurs, innocence, safety, freedom, life are snatched away from the victim.
Rape is a systemic problem, one brought on by lack of sexual education, classes on consent and respect. If women are not valued, if men are raised to be dominating, if girls think they are impure (in Nepal, periods are still considered to be impure) and if boys are taught that in any case, masculinity prevails, then the world is far from safe and saved. So yes, gender equality also requires us to think about and act on poverty, education, safety...and the treatment we reserve to our home and the people in it to ensure a “sustainable tomorrow”. As day comes, the 8th of March is a holiday for women in Nepal, a small compensation for their struggles during the rest of the year. But if we, women of the world, are only allowed to be seen on this day, let it be the loudest, proudest, longest day of all, because we deserve to exist without restraints.
She is an intern from France