International Women’s Day 2016 took place on Tuesday March 8. The day saw events worldwide, internationally trending hashtags and mass social media participation. Yet, can a single celebatory day really help further women’s rights the world over, and in Latin America in particular?
The International Women’s Day website state the day was inaugurated in the early 1900s. The United Nations first recognised the day in 1975 and, in 1977, the General Assembly proclaimed it an official United Nations Day.
Using the slogan “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”, the goal is to achieve global gender equality within the next 14 years. The hashtag #InternationalWomensDay accumulated hundreds and thousands of hits, and the official Twitter and Facebook pages each boast large numbers of followers.
— Women's Day (@womensday) March 8, 2016
Yet, can equality be attained by a popular hashtag? Can the most serious problems facing women today be erradicated by a well-designed Snapchat filter? Perhaps not.
The International Women’s Day website has a catalogue of events taking place in celebration of the day. Searching by country, Bolivia, Brazil, Guyana and Puerto Rico are the only Latin American countries officially promoting events.
In Argentina, El Pais reports, a collective of women, under the header ‘Ni Una Menos’ (Not One Less), are viewing the day just as any other. The #NiUnaMenos campaign began on social media, protesting rising numbers of femicides and violence committed against women. Journalist Valeria Sampedro, who forms part of the collective, stated that “The biggest achievement will be when there is no need to celebrate Women’s Day because it’s as if the patriarchy is gifting you a day so you don’t have to cook or so you can go out with your friends.”
Given the serious problems facing women in the continent, it comes as no surprise that some are sceptical of the relevance of International Women’s Day. El Pais, reporting on the day in Colombia, posed the question “Women’s Day in Colombia: Is there anything to celebrate?” Given the rates of gender violence and femicide, the wage gap and the persistent presence of a machista culture in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America, it does seem that celebrations could be put on hold.
Achieving gender equality by 2030 remains rather optimistic for many, both in Latin America and in other parts of the world. Yet the postivity spread through social media, by those who wrote a Facebook status recognising Women’s Day, took a picture with the Snapchat filter, sent a message with the emoji or used the IWD2016 hashtag.
— UN Women (@UN_Women) March 10, 2016
Small shows of recognition and solidarity worldwide. It may not be equality, but it is surely a start.