Anne Marie McCarthy, Plan International Ireland’s Emergencies’ Coordinator comments on this year’s International Women’s Day.
The first time that I celebrated International Women’s Day was when I was working with a national Senegalese Women’s NGO in the 90’s. It wasn’t a day that was really celebrated in Ireland and I didn’t know what to expect. In Senegal though, it was a day of celebration; there were marches, speeches, banners, rejoicing and special outfits made of fabric marking the theme of that year, all aimed at mobilising communities to act together for women’s rights.
The theme for 2017 is ‘Be Bold for Change’ calling on us all to help forge a more gender inclusive world.
This theme fits perfectly with Plan International’s Global Strategy on making programmes gender transformative. In emergency and conflict situations however, this aim is admirable but extremely challenging. Gender-based violence in conflict situations is often used as a weapon of war, harmful practices such as early marriage become more common and progress in women’s rights is often compromised. However, even if we cannot transform the lives of girls and boys, at a minimum, we need to continue to provide access to basic services and protections, considering the particular challenges facing women, men, girls and boys.
Plan International can achieve this aim by carrying out gender analysis to make our programmes more gender inclusive, specifically targeting girls and women and also by ensuring that we work towards gender balance in our teams. One of our organisation’s strengths is the commitment and dedication of our staff, including the many inspiring women staff that I have met. We need to continue investing in female staff so that we can occupy positions of authority in work but also within our communities around the world.
We need to be bold every day, not just on International Women’s Day, but on March 8th, we will acknowledge our achievements and rejoice like I did 20 years ago.