It’s important to remember how International Women’s Day began. On the 8th March 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. 2 years later, the Conference of Working Women took place in Copenhagen. Over 100 women, representing 17 countries passed a motion for International Women’s Day. It has been a celebrated ever since.
We’ve come a long way since the start of the 20th century. However, the past month has highlighted a lot of hurt and anger that women have faced. The devastating case of Sarah Everard showed how women don’t feel safe every day. Over 70% of women in the UK say they have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public. Also, only 3% of 18-24 year olds say they’ve never experienced sexual harassment, as reported by UN Women UK. This demands change.
We’ve had discussions all over Twitter with a large number of men supporting women. Most of them promoting to have conversations with male friends to end male violence. However, discussions are only the start of overcoming issues, action needs to take place for gender equality. Beyond Equality is an organisation that works with boys in schools or men in offices to educate on gender inequalities. Their work is based on rethinking masculinities, creating gender equality and prevent gender-based violence. Beyond Equality is a really positive force for change as the problem starts with male violence, therefore can only be solved through educating males.
On the other hand, this month didn’t stop there with frustrating and upsetting events. A peaceful vigil in memory of Sarah Everard in Clapham Common took place on 13th March. Although, the emergency Coronavirus Act didn’t allow the vigil to formally go-ahead, people still gathered at Clapham Common wearing masks and laying flowers, including Kate Middleton. The Metropolitan Police then disrupted the peace by using violence to disperse the crowd and arrested women attendees. It was unbearable to see a vigil that was held in honour of a woman killed by a man working for Metropolitan Police, be violently intercepted by mostly male police officers. This behaviour only further instilled that women do not feel safe in public. The officers whose job it is to keep people safe, only make women feel more in danger.
Mind the Gender Pay Gap
March 2021 also marks the 1 year anniversary of the World Health Organisation declaring a global pandemic. The past year has been really tough for us all. Especially for all the key workers and NHS staff working on the frontline to help save lives. Clapping for workers obviously can’t help to pay the bills. The right thing to do would be to give them a decent pay raise, which did not happen. However, women in healthcare have been faced with not receiving the pay that they deserve before. Research has shown that the mean gender pay gap is 33.41%. The gender pay gap service also reported in 2019 that 8 out of 10 British companies paid men more than women. Therefore, women working in healthcare aren’t getting the pay raise they deserve, and are still being paid lower than their male counterparts.
Choose to Challenge
International Women’s Day 2021 theme was ‘Choose to Challenge’. The theme rightfully challenged the likes of fast fashion retail giants Pretty Little Thing through their use of capitalising off the international celebration of women. Empowered T-shirts were sold and stated that 100% of the proceeds going to the charity, Girls Inc. However, it was only last year that their parent company, Boohoo had allegations of paying their staff more than half below minimum wage. Unacceptable poor working conditions were also reported. Quite ironic seen as International Women’s Day originated from female garment workers in New York protesting for better working conditions.
These allegations from large companies highlight the importance of investing your money in small, transparent businesses. Our friends at Where Does It Come From released a brilliant blog this month, ‘Women for Women‘. The blog explains how women make up 80% of the fashion industry workforce, but are often working in awful conditions and not given a fair wage. The article shared ethical, sustainable and transparent businesses that you can support. Ethiqana is honoured to be part of that list, along with many others who are working to change the industries for the better!
Change is Certain
It is in Ethiqana’s DNA to support the economical development of women through sustainable livelihoods. This is why across our social media platforms (@ethiqana) this month, we have celebrated our women artisans who create a large range of our products. We introduced you to Durga, a Master Toy Artisan; Sultana, a young mother who wanted to continue growing her career whilst caring for her baby, and a female empowering NGO that make our face masks.
At Ethiqana, it’s extremely important for us to invest in suppliers who work to empower women and abolish gender bias and inequality. We do this by paying a fair living wage to Durga who works in an organisation where 54% of her colleagues are female, including management. It is also paramount that our suppliers have a clear pathway for career growth.
Other suppliers we support include an NGO in Jaipur, who work for true women’s empowerment. The women find shelter, training & employment. They come together to share their skills and crafts which leads to some of their beautiful creations that we sell on our website. We pay them a fair wage for their products which helps paves the way for their economic & social independence. In their own words, their community is “a social enterprise for women, of women & by women”.
As part of our mission we will continue to find and work with artisans that work to empower women, and help them socially and economically.
Let’s keep challenging the status quo. Let’s keep striving for better.
Author – Vicky Jones