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International Women’s Day – Equality for Each and All of Us

March 8, 2020 12:15 PM


Every year on 8 March - International Women's Day - people around the world mark this occasion in a wide variety of ways. It is a day for celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality. This year's theme, " Each for Equal", is drawn from a notion of 'Collective Individualism'. We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviours and attitudes can have an impact on our larger society. Collectively, we can make change happen, and help to create a gender equal world. What's that about?

Just about everything! Equality is not just a women's issue, or a societal issue; it's also business issue. Gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive. A gender equal world would be a healthier, wealthier and more harmonious one.

I have pondered what my particular focus should be this year. The Preventing and Combatting Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence Bill is back in Parliament. Bullying and harassment in the workplace is much in the news. There is no end of topics one could pick on. I wanted something to inspire me. And I had to look no further than Bristol, on a rainy Friday 8 days ago, when Greta Thunberg turned up to speak at the "youth strike" of some 20,000 people, made up of school children, students, young people and their supporters of all ages, who were protesting about the climate emergency.

Now there's an issue where collectively we can demand change, to secure a better future for the younger generation. If not a future equal in opportunities to the decades which have been enjoyed by older generations, we can at least seek to avert the catastrophic impact of climate change. The vast majority of scientists and experts agree that this can and should be tackled by big businesses and institutions. That will only happen if we insist upon it.

When Greta Thunberg declares that those in power are not listening, and that it is her generation who are the "adults in the room", it grabs a headline for a day. Then the news is back to the subject of coronavirus - an imminent threat to health, in particular of vulnerable elderly people around the world. We hear that people are panic-buying, and the world stock markets are plummeting, along with the price of oil. It strikes me that there is a deep irony here. Manufacturing has been seriously impacted, in China for example, but at the same time air pollution has been significantly reduced, as the world slows down and isn't burning fossil fuels at the usual seemingly insatiable rate.

Perhaps the current health "crisis" should give us pause for thought. We are told that the worst of it is likely to be over in months rather than years. Not so the climate emergency, which will have a far worse impact for decades to come.

So before we resume" business as usual", we should take the opportunity to see how we can do things differently, and get to grips with the far bigger issue that young women like Greta Thunberg and her generation are rightly protesting about.

The Liberal Democrats have long been committed to grappling with climate change. On International Women's Day - and every other day - we can advocate our life-changing policies, to meet the threat that faces us all. We too are the "adults in the room", on this most important of issues.

Rachel Dineley, Diversity Officer

Chiltern Liberal Democrats