The Importance of Women’s Rights

women rights

When women and girls have equal rights, communities are safer, economies grow, and families are healthy. Gender equality is a fundamental human right, and we can’t achieve peace or full human potential until it becomes reality.

In the decades following the publication of Friedan’s book, a growing number of women joined with labor leaders and union representatives to demand equality in the workplace, such as equal pay for men and women doing similar jobs and protection against employment discrimination on the basis of gender. Those efforts grew into the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. NOW was the first national pressure group dedicated to advancing women’s rights. Its founder, Betty Friedan, saw the group as a “feminist equivalent of the NAACP and the civil rights movement.”

More than half of those who say it is important to have equal rights for women in society point to equality in the workplace. When asked to offer specific examples of what this might look like, 45% mention equal pay, 19% say no discrimination in hiring and promotion, and 2% name benefits such as maternity leave or paternity and maternity support. These are important elements of a society in which women have equal rights, but they are not the whole story.

Women and girls also need to be well-protected from sexual and physical violence, which is often linked to domestic and social economic inequality. Worldwide, on average, 30% of all women who are in a relationship experience some form of physical or sexual abuse by an intimate partner. In conflict zones, women and girls are especially at risk from violence and in many situations are the target of so-called honor crimes, where men kill or injure their wives or daughters for perceived transgressions.

Moreover, women and girls need to be free to make their own choices about whether and how many children to have, how to live and where to work. These include access to reproductive health services, including contraception and abortion; freedom from gender-based violence; and the ability to choose if, when, and with whom to marry.

Lastly, they need to be able to participate in politics and other decision-making processes by being able to vote, and to do so without facing discrimination or violence. In fact, a country cannot fully realize its potential when half of its population is shut out of the political process. All of these things are possible only when women have the same rights as men. Only when every woman can live freely and safely, with choices over her body, life, and future, will true equality be achieved. That is why gender equality is everyone’s business.