Women’s Rights Are Everyone’s Rights

The Women’s Rights Movement began on a sweltering July day in 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton joined four other women friends for tea at her house in upstate New York. As the conversation turned to what their lives were like as women under America’s new democracy, they shared their frustration and discontent with being treated as less than equal citizens.

The 72-year struggle that followed is a story of perseverance and determination, filled with women’s names and accomplishments that should become as familiar to Americans as those of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King Jr. Their legacy of tireless activism has brought measurable improvements in women’s positions, but there is much more to do.

Women continue to face enormous obstacles in achieving their full human potential and the economic benefits that flow from gender equality. The most obvious are the disparities in pay and representation. Across all regions and sectors, women earn 24% less than men for the same work. In addition, the global pandemic has disproportionately affected women, who make up two thirds of all displaced people and are twice as likely to be victims of violence, including sexual assault and killings. Moreover, 153 countries have laws that discriminate against women economically, and two thirds of the world’s 781 million illiterate adults are women.

In spite of these staggering statistics, most women are optimistic about the future. In fact, a majority of U.S. adults say that we haven’t gone far enough to give women equal rights with men, but a significant share think we have made progress.

Across demographic and partisan lines, the vast majority of American adults – 87% among Democrats and 64% among Republicans and Republican leaners – say it is very important to have equal rights for women. Women’s rights are everyone’s rights.

Equality for women is not only a moral and ethical imperative, it’s also a human right that is essential to peace and prosperity. Having equal rights allows women to realize their full potential, which in turn promotes sustainable development and reduces poverty. Women who are empowered are healthier, more educated and better able to care for their families and communities.

While many of the obstacles to equality for women are deeply rooted in patriarchal ways of thinking and standards that benefit men over women, the most significant challenges can be overcome with the collective action of women around the world. This is the mission of medica mondiale, whose work in this area focuses on directing attention towards the causes and consequences of gender-based discrimination, helping to identify and dismantle the structures that impede women’s full rights and human dignity.

To achieve these goals, medica mondiale works closely with the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the principal intergovernmental body dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women around the world. The CSW is instrumental in documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and in shaping global standards and practices that support women’s empowerment. It is an integral part of the United Nations system.