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Gender gap must be closed

The Cayman Islands joins the rest of the world today, March 8, to celebrate International Women’s Day 2017. This year’s message is to Be Bold For Change, to help forge better environments for women at work and to be more gender inclusive.

IWD has been observed for over a century and is recognised each year on March 8. It is not affiliated with any one group, but brings together governments, women’s organisations, corporations and charities. The day is marked globally with arts performances, talks, rallies, networking events, sports events, conferences and marches.

The original aim of globally achieving full gender equality for women has still not been realised. A gender pay gap persists and women are still not present in equal numbers in the most powerful institutions of business or politics. Figures show that globally, women’s education, health and violence towards women is still worse than that of men.

According to the World Economic Forum, the gender gap won’t close until 2186. Women come together on IWD to force the world to recognise these inequalities – while also celebrating the achievements of women who have overcome these barriers.

Countries celebrate it in different ways and it is an official holiday in many Asian and African countries.

Other countries celebrate it in a similar way to Mother’s Day with men presenting their wives, girlfriends, mothers and female friends with flowers and gifts. As 2186 seems so far away, the aim is that by 2030, all girls and boys will be able to complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.

The movement also aims to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere by 2030 and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation. Another aim is to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, children in the workplace and female genital mutilation.

The world of work is changing, and with significant implications for women. There is a technological and digital revolution and the opportunities they bring, but there is a growing informality of labour, unstable livelihoods and incomes, new fiscal and trade policies and environmental impacts. All of these topics must be addressed in the context of women’s economic empowerment.

Merta Day, the Sports Coordinator for Women at the Department of Sports, has organised a series of events throughout March to celebrate the achievements and input of girls and women in sports. A former champion martial arts and squash player herself, Day has reaped the rewards of excelling in sport and made a lifelong commitment to the industry. Unfortunately, not all females have the same opportunities as she’s enjoyed which is why IWD was created in the first place. The Cayman Reporter is celebrating the input of Cayman’s sportswomen throughout this month starting with a profile on Cathryn Hindess. A champion squash player, she is now giving back as a coach.

In this newspaper we also hail the achievements of women in education, medicine, media and the corporate world. These high achievers are making an impact and inspiring other females to emulate them.

In the Cayman Islands, women make up almost half of the working population, with 20,086 men and 19,052 women in the workplace, according to the 2015 Economics and Statistics Office. Yet there is still an inequality in the level of women’s pay to men.

Each one of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence by taking bold, pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity. Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash the limitless potential offered to economies the world over.

Some Cayman residents will be attending the International Women’s Day Celebration 2017 at the Marriott Beach Resort on Mar. 8 which is organised by the Family Resource Centre. The keynote speaker is male, Jackson Katz. He is an American cultural theorist, gender equality campaigner, academic and author with a PhD. He has spent decades promoting gender equality issues and campaigning to reduce male violence against women. Katz is a fitting representative of what IWD espouses. If more men adhered to his philosophies the world would be a far more equitable place.

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