International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900s, a time when oppression of women and inequality between the genders spurred women to become more active in demanding change. Since then, women have made strides, but inequality still exists. In many places, women continue to be treated as second-class citizens.
At IFES, gender equality is seen as a crucial element of democracy, since democracy cannot exists if half the population does not have an equal say in the country’s government and affairs. To that effect, many of our programs include a gender empowerment component to ensure women are not overlooked in the electoral process.
In Yemen, for example, IFES helped the elections commission establish a gender unit to ensure more women were part of the election commission and the voting process. In India, IFES has partnered with Counterpart International to work on the Garima project, which supports Indian institutions and civil society to enhance the ability of women to advocate for their rights in the Parliament and state legislatures; deter gender based violence, female feticide and child marriage; and increase the participation of Muslim women in mainstream social, economic and political processes.
In the Middle East and North Africa, IFES has launched a project called Status of Women in the Middle East and North Africa (SWMENA), which produces surveys to determine exactly where women in the region stand politically, economically and socially. SWMENA also provides its survey data to local nongovernmental organizations that advocate for women’s rights and offers training on how to use the findings to advance their causes.
As International Women’s Day is commemorated around the world, IFES acknowledges the brave women and men who have spoken out for women’s rights.
For more information on IFES’ gender work, please click here.